The International Audiology Connection to Mother’s Day

It’s just about Mother’s Day 2011 on May 8th, but how are Mother’s Day and Audiology related?

Although it is easy to assume that Mother’s Day was conceived in a boardroom for some card or flower company, a  historical review indicates that the earliest tributes to mothers date back to the annual spring festival the Greeks dedicated to Rhea, the mother of many deities, and to the offerings ancient Romans made to their Great Mother of Gods, Cybele. Christians celebrated this festival on the fourth Sunday in Lent in honor of Mary, mother of Christ, while in England this holiday was expanded to include all mothers and was called Mothering Sunday.

In the United States, Mother’s Day started nearly 150 years ago, when Anna Jarvis, an Appalachian homemaker, organized a day to bring attention to mothers of fallen soldiers on both sides of the American Civil war.  She called it “Mother’s Work Day.”   In 1905 when Anna Jarvis died, her daughter, also named Anna, began a campaign to memorialize the life work of her mother. Legend has it that young Anna remembered a Sunday school lesson that her mother gave in which she said, “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial Mother’s day. There are many days for men, but none for mothers.”   Young Anna began to lobby prominent businessmen like John Wannamaker, and politicians including Presidents Taft and Roosevelt to support her campaign to create a special day to honor mothers. At one of the first services organized to celebrate Anna’s mother in 1908, at her church in West Virginia, Anna handed out her mother’s favorite flower, the white carnation. Five years later, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution calling for officials of the federal government to wear white carnations on Mother’s Day. In 1914 Anna’s hard work paid off when Woodrow Wilson signed a bill recognizing Mother’s Day as a national holiday. (unknown, 2011).  By the time of “young Anna’s” death in 1948, Mother’s Day was being celebrated in over 40 countries………..But what of the connection to Audiology?

Today, Mothers worldwide owe a great debt to the mother of universal newborn hearing screening, Dr. Marion Downs, as well as her contemporaries that began the first infant hearing screening program in the United States in 1963 in Denver, Colorado.  Although only high risk infants were screened for hearing for in the first few years, by the 1990s universal hearing screening had begun in Colorado.  Subsequently, the procedure spread across the country and, in 2011, now encompasses programs around the world where audiologists now find hearing impairment within hours of birth, greatly accelerating the aural rehabilitation process.

According to the MDHC (2011), Dr. Downs has been relentless in her pursuit to make the identification and management of hearing loss in infants and children an important medical and educational consideration and public health issue. Her success in bringing the importance of early identification of hearing loss to light has ultimately resulted in the current widespread national program, which makes newborn hearing screening a reality today in more than 40 states across the US and in numerous foreign countries.

In his OAE site, Hatzopoulos (2011) offers a map indicating the world wide spread of universal newborn hearing screening.  On his map, the darker the color of the country, the more developed the program.  Hatzopoulos also suggests that with rapidly developing technology and the extreme benefit of these programs, these Newborn Hearing Screening programs are developing faster than they can be updated in the literature.  Additionally, with the reduction of the cost of service provision, more developing countries are providing these services each day.

According to the CDC (2011), population-based studies in Europe and North America have identified a consistent prevalence of approximately 0.1% of children having a hearing loss of more than 40 decibels (dB) through review of health or education records, or both. Other international studies using different methods or criteria (such as screenings, questionnaires, and less severe decibel thresholds) have reported even higher estimates.

Check out the literature for your country with the following link:

Mother’s Day does vary as to the time of year in many countries.  As this special day comes around in your country, if you do not currently offer Universal Newborn Hearing Screening  in your hospital, take this special day as an opportune time to begin your program.  Be part of the worldwide Audiology legacy that offers new mothers peace of mind.

Here is a list of when Mother’s Day is celebrated around the world……



Hatzopoulos, S., (Ed) (2011).  Neonatal: Screening practices in the World (US excluded) OAE Portal Zone:  Retrieved from the World Wide Web, May 1, 2011:

Marion Downs Hearing Foundation (MDHC)(2011).  Biography, Retrieved from the World Wide Web May 1, 2011:

Mothers Day Central (2011). When is Mother’s Day around the world, Retrieved from the World Wide Web,  May 1, 2011:

Unknown, (2011).  Mother’s Day History, Retrieved from the World Wide Web, May 1, 2011:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), (2011).  International Data, Retrieved from the World Wide Web May 1, 2011:

About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor is a board certified audiologist with 45 years of clinical practice in audiology. He is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager, and author. He has 45 years experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in various university audiology programs.