Maternal anxiety and attitudes to universal neonatal hearing screening

Br J Audiol. 1998 Feb;32(1):27-37. doi: 10.3109/03005364000000048.


Neonatal hearing screening of all babies within the maternity unit is now feasible using transient evoked otoacoustic emission (TEOAE) recording. However, in many maternity units in the United Kingdom, the majority of babies are discharged within the first 48 hours. During the first two days of life, there is a higher proportion of babies in whom emissions cannot be recorded. A universal TEOAE hearing screen has been implemented in Whipps Cross Hospital. As 70% of the babies are discharged from the maternity unit before they are 48 hours old, a two stage screen was implemented, with failure at the initial TEOAE test being followed by a retest after 4-6 weeks. The maternal anxiety caused by this model was investigated in 288 mothers enrolled for the initial TEOAE test. Generally, anxiety was low and attitudes towards the screen were positive. Ninety-seven per cent of mothers considered the screen to be worthwhile at the initial test with 15% feeling it had caused some anxiety but less than 1% being very worried. The mothers who had some anxieties were not dissatisfied with the screen, and within this group there was no increase in the proportion of babies who had failed the initial test. At the retest, two of 57 mothers (3.5%) considered they were very worried, but there was no significant deterioration in attitude towards the screen. Spielberger's State-Trait Anxiety Inventory revealed no significant difference in the anxiety state of the retest group when compared with a control group whose babies had not received a neonatal hearing test. The results of the initial test and the retest did not influence the anxiety state of the mothers. Ways of minimizing anxiety caused to a minority of mothers whilst maintaining positive attitudes to the screen are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Attitude*
  • Cochlea / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Hearing Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Neonatal Screening*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires