Brainstem auditory-evoked potential assessment of auditory function and congenital deafness in llamas (Lama glama) and alpacas (L pacos)
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Auditory function of llamas and alpacas was assessed objectively by means of brainstem auditory-evoked response audiometry (BAER) to establish the normal hearing range and to test the hypothesis of a correlation between blue eyes, white coat, and deafness. Sixty-three camelids were available for the study. Thirteen animals had blue irides; 1 animal had 1 blue and 1 pigmented iris. Wave latencies, amplitudes, and interpeak latencies were measured under general anesthetic. Click stimuli (dB [HL]) were delivered by an insert earphone. Four to five positive peaks could be detected; waves I, II, and V were reproducible; wave II appeared infrequently; and wave IV generally merged with wave V to form a complex. Peak latencies decreased and peak amplitudes increased as stimulus intensity increased. A hearing threshold level of 10-20 dB (HL) was proposed as the normal range in llamas and alpacas. None of the animals with pigmentation of coat and iris showed any degree of hearing impairment. Seven of the 10 blue-eyed, pure-white animals were bilaterally deaf and one of them was unilaterally deaf. However, 2 blue-eyed, white animals exhibited normal hearing ability. Three blue-eyed animals with pigmented coat did not show any hearing impairment. All white animals with normal iris pigmentation had normal auditory function; so did the 1 animal with 1 normal and 1 blue iris. The high frequency (78%) of bilaterally deaf animals with pure white coat and blue iris pigmentation supports the hypothesis of a correlation between pigmentation anomalies and congenital deafness in llamas and alpacas.