BOSTON (CBS) – Every year, approximately 4,000 infants die from sudden infant death syndrome, also know as SIDS.
It has remained a mystery why some seemingly healthy babies die in their sleep, but there's a new theory.
Pediatric anesthesiologist Dr. Daniel Rubens at Seattle Children's Hospital believes SIDS may be caused by damage to the inner ear.
That damage may prevent babies from becoming roused when they develop a buildup of carbon dioxide or have a lack of oxygen while sleeping.
Dr. Jonathan Davis, Chief of Newborn Medicine at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, agrees that the inner ear should be looked at more closely.
"There's always been a concern that babies have abnormalities in their breathing control systems, or in some kind of brain regulation system to put them at risk of sudden infant death syndrome," said Davis. "And this theory is intriguing, that there might be a possibility of detecting these abnormalities and potentially preventing sudden infant death syndrome from occurring."
Data from Rhode Island over a 13-year period showed that babies who died of SIDS had some hearing deficiency in one ear. Testing on mice has also supported this theory.
That said, more research is needed in humans before any conclusions can be drawn.
In the meantime, to help protect your baby from SIDS, put them on their back to sleep, avoid exposing them to second hand smoke, get rid of any soft bedding in the crib, and avoid sleeping with your baby,
for more features.