Objective: To investigate whether false-positive outcomes on neonatal hearing screening cause long-lasting parental concerns.
Methods: A general population of parents whose children had participated in the universal neonatal hearing screening (UNHS) programme were examined. Parents filled out a questionnaire 6 months after UNHS. Outcomes were compared for all parents whose child tested positive or inconclusive in at least one of three tests but afterwards proved not to have hearing impairment (cases, n = 154) and a random sample of parents whose child passed the first test (controls, n = 288). Parental anxiety as measured with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), attitude towards the child (child health rating and experienced problems) and sensitivity to hearing problems were measured.
Results: Median STAI score was equal for cases and controls. Parental attitudes toward the child also did not differ. The difference in the proportion of parents who worried about their child’s hearing was statistically significant between cases and controls (p = 0.001) and varied with the number of screens; 4% of controls were worried about the child’s hearing, as compared to 10% of cases whose children were tested twice, and 15% of cases whose children were tested three times.
Conclusions: False-positive UNHS test results do not cause long-term general parental anxiety. However, 6 months after screening, a considerable proportion of parents continued to experience hearing-specific worries regarding their child.
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Funding: This study was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMW, grant 28-2549-1).
Competing interests: None.