Hearing and speech and language development in 14 children with fetal alcohol syndrome were evaluated at the Fetal Alcohol Research Center, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, and the Audiology Division, School of Medicine, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado. Recurrent serous otitis media with hearing loss and speech and language problems occurred in 13, and 4 also had sensorineural hearing loss. The IQ was 70-85 in 7 children and below 69 in 7. The authors conclude that hearing disorders are a significant complication of fetal alcohol exposure, probably contributing to the speech and language and learning disabilities commonly associated with the syndrome. [1]

COMMENT. As a cause of mental retardation, fetal alcohol syndrome is as prevalent as Down's syndrome and occurs in at least one in 1000 births. Postmortem examination of the brain reveals extensive developmental defects, mostly the consequence of migration anomalies. Heterotopias, lissencephaly, and agenesis of the corpus callosum have been described. Migration anomalies may involve the brain stem as well as the cerebrum, thus accounting for the sensorineural deafness noted in the above study.