Primary care physicians’ knowledge, attitudes and practices related tonewborn hearing screening

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American Academy of Pediatrics

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Objective: Universal newborn hearing screening focuses on providing the earliest possible diagnosis for infants with permanent hearing loss. The goal is to prevent or minimize the consequences of sensorineural hearing loss on speech and language development through timely and effective diagnosis and interventions. Pediatricians are in a key position to educate families about the importance of follow-up, if they are well informed. The objective of this study was to survey the attitudes, practices, and knowledge of primary care physicians in relation to newborn hearing screening and follow-up.

Methods: A survey was created on the basis of input from focus groups with primary care physicians. Surveys (n = 12,211) were sent to primary care physicians in 21 states and 1 territory (Puerto Rico) regarding practices, knowledge, and attitudes related to universal newborn hearing screening. The response rate was 16.1% (n = 1968).

Results: Physicians reported a high level of support for universal newborn hearing screening; 81.6% judged it to be very important to screen all newborns for hearing loss at birth. Although physicians reported confidence in talking with parents about screening results, they indicated a lack of confidence in discussing follow-up procedures and intervention needs. Several important gaps in knowledge were identified, and these represent priorities for education, as based on their relevance to medical management and parent support. Physicians expressed a strong preference for action-oriented resources.

Conclusion: Pediatricians and other primary care providers recognize the benefits of early detection and intervention for permanent hearing loss in infants. The current system of newborn hearing screening can be enhanced by strengthening the medical community's involvement in the process from screening to follow-up. Physician roles will be supported through the provision of action-oriented resources that educate parents about the importance of follow-up and that prepare professionals to incorporate appropriate surveillance procedures in daily practice.