Introduction: Hearing loss is the most common congenital condition screened for at birth in the United States, and more than 95% of newborns are currently screened for hearing. Newborn hearing screening is most effective when infants receive timely and effective interventions. Unfortunately, follow-up rates for newborns not passing their initial hearing screenings are as low as 50% in some states. Midwives are well-positioned to encourage families to follow-up with their neonatal providers when newborns are referred for further testing. Newborn hearing screening is a relatively new practice in the United States and, to date, there has been no research regarding the informational needs and practices of certified nurse-midwives or certified midwives related to hearing screening. This study examined the knowledge, attitudes, and follow-up practices of midwives related to newborn hearing screening and intervention.
Methods: A survey instrument was developed and sent to 5255 American College of Nurse-Midwives members in 50 states and 2 territories.
Results: Five hundred and eighteen surveys were returned, yielding a response rate of 9.9%. Only 68% of respondents said it was very important to screen all newborns for hearing loss. Respondents reported significant gaps in their knowledge about screening procedures, steps for referral, and the availability of resources when newborns did not pass the test. Midwives also reported the need for information about hearing loss conditions and genetics, screening guidelines, protocols for follow-up, referral networks, and therapies available.
Discussion: Current practices in newborn hearing screening and intervention programs can be enhanced by strengthening the basic midwifery knowledge of and rationale for follow-up when newborns fail their hearing screenings. Midwives can play an integral role in optimizing hearing, speech, and family interaction by assuring that each newborn has access to the best hearing screening and referrals.