A positive test result from universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) has been suspected to cause maternal concern. However, findings so far are inconclusive. Against the background of a 2-stage UNHS protocol, we investigated the extent of maternal concern in 2 different situations: 1) mothers' immediate reactions after a positive result at the first-stage test and 2) maternal concern during a 1-month period while waiting for the infant's hearing assessment after the infant also failed the retest (ie, the screening). In addition, we checked whether mothers who are informed by an audiologist about the low predictive validity of positive test results in hearing screening are less concerned about a positive result than mothers who are not informed.
A prospective study was conducted over a 1-year period, in which all mothers whose infants tested positive in the first stage or failed the screening were questioned about their level of concern attributable to the positive test result.
Of 85 mothers whose infants tested positive in the first-stage test (situation 1), 34 (40%) did not know the result. Of the remaining 51 mothers, 59% were not at all concerned and 27% were only slightly concerned about the result, whereas 14% stated that they were highly concerned. In an additional sample of 43 mothers whose infants failed the screening (situation 2), 42% reported not being worried and 37% only slightly worried, whereas 21% were highly concerned about the positive screening result. No effect of information about the low predictive validity of positive test results on the extent of maternal concern could be ascertained.
The results of this study contradict the findings of some previous surveys that reported considerably higher levels of maternal concern after a positive test in UNHS. The failure to demonstrate the impact of information on maternal concern might be attributable to the fact that the number of uninformed mothers was too small to affect our results perceptibly.