Early Warning: SIDS

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
December 6, 2007 9:00:00 PM PST
Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is the leading cause of death in children between one month and one year old. A simple, standard hearing test may someday identify which babies are at risk for SIDS. New research reveals a possible connection between the inner ear and the tragic death in newborns.Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

Three-month-old Ivanka Simonova was taking a nap.

"I thought I heard her cry and I said, 'Go check on her,'" her mother, Katerina Simonova, said.

Her husband found Ivanka in the worst way.

"He went and brought her out and she was unconscious and she wasn't breathing and he said, 'Something's wrong,'" Katerina recalled.

Ivanka died from SIDS. The exact cause eludes the medical community. Now, there is a possible answer.

"I propose, and I have yet to prove this, that there's an injury at birth which causes an insult that affects a number of regions in the body that includes the inner ear," said Dr. Daniel Rubens, an anesthesiologist at Seattle Children's Hospital.

Dr. Rubens' theory is hair cells in the inner ear transmit information to the brain about carbon dioxide levels in the blood. Injury to these cells disrupts breathing, predisposing infants to SIDS.

"It points to the possibility of detecting SIDS at birth by a simple, readily available test," Dr. Rubens said.

When Dr. Rubens looked at the data of 31 babies that had died from SIDS, all scored lower in their standard newborn hearing tests in the right ear, compared to healthy infants. They also tested lower in the right ear than the left, the opposite of healthy newborns.

Doctors still don't know what causes SIDS. The hope is this possible connection between hearing and SIDS could prompt even more research and one day help prevent deaths like Ivanka's.

More studies are underway to look at all links between inner ear function and SIDS.


Teri Thomas
Media Relations
Seattle Children's Hospital

email: teri.thomas@seattlechildrens.org