New Florida Bill Signed to Help to Identify Hearing Loss in Newborns

April 25, 2022

Dr. Samuel Ostrower

In April, the SB 292 Newborn Screenings bill was signed in Florida that requires hospitals and other state-licensed birthing facilities to test for congenital cytomegalovirus, also known as cCMV, in newborns.

Samuel Ostrower, MD, chief of Pediatric Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery Program at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, is part of the Florida CMV Collaborative, a consortium of healthcare providers eager to improve education and screening for cCMV in Florida. Through this group and in recognition of his work to improve cCMV outcomes for Memorial Healthcare System, he was invited to testify before the Florida Senate in support of the new law.

Dr. Ostrower says that cCMV is the most common cause of non-genetic hearing loss in infants and that more than 90% of women have never heard of CMV. This new bill aims to help provide education around the virus and early detection.

“Raising awareness about congenital CMV is crucial to preventing hearing loss in children,” said Dr. Ostrower. “Even before the SB 292 Newborn Screenings bill was passed, Memorial Healthcare System began evaluating all infants who fail the newborn hearing screen for cCMV because if it is diagnosed early, there are treatments available to improve hearing loss.”

CMV is one of the most common viruses worldwide, and more than 80% of adults have been infected at least once in their life. Symptoms of CMV are usually very mild, and if a pregnant mother becomes infected, she can pass the virus to her unborn child, which is known as congenital CMV. cCMV affects one in two hundred babies born in the United States. Ninety percent of infants born with cCMV have no symptoms, but it can cause permanent hearing loss - even deafness.

If an expectant parent suspects that they may have contracted CMV, they should contact their obstetrician immediately to arrange to have the baby evaluated at birth. If a child is diagnosed with cCMV, parents can work with their pediatrician for a referral to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital for treatment.