Rural barriers to early diagnosis and treatment of infant hearing loss in appalachia

Matthew L. Bush, Bryan Hardin, Christopher Rayle, Cathy Lester, Christina R. Studts, Jennifer B. Shinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess regional parental barriers in the diagnostic and therapeutic process after abnormal newborn hearing screening (NHS) testing.

Study Design: Cross-sectional questionnaire study. Setting: Tertiary medical center.

Patients: Parents of infants who failed NHS in Kentucky from January 2009 to February 2012. Main outcome measure: Demographic information, county of origin, attitudes and perceptions regarding NHS, and barriers in the NHS diagnostic process.

Results: There were 460 participants in the study, which included 25.4% of parents from the Appalachian region. Twenty-one percent of Appalachian parents found the process on newborn hearing testing difficult. Appalachian parents were more likely to have no more than 12 years of education (odds ratio [OR], 1.7; p = 0.02) and Medicaid insurance (OR, 2.3; p G 0.001) compared with non-Appalachian parents. A higher percentage of Appalachian parents were unaware of the NHS results at the time of hospital discharge than non-Appalachians (14% versus 7%, p = 0.03). Distance from the diagnostic/therapeutic center represented was a significant barrier for Appalachian parents (OR, 2.8; p = 0.001). Compared with urban parents, a greater percentage of rural parents had never heard of a cochlear implant (p = 0.01). Appalachian parents expressed a strong interest in telemedicine and a desire for closer services.

Conclusion: Multiple barriers including education, distance, accessibility, and socioeconomic factors can affect timely diagnosis and treatment of congenital hearing loss for children residing in rural areas. Educational and telemedicine programs may benefit parents in Appalachia as well as parents in other rural areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-98
Number of pages6
JournalOtology and Neurotology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Appalachia
  • Barriers to health care access
  • Infant hearing loss
  • Rural health care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Clinical Neurology


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