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Screening for Hearing Loss in Older Adults: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement FREE

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The full report is titled “Screening for Hearing Loss in Older Adults: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement.” It is in the 6 November 2012 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 157, pages 655-661). The author is V.A. Moyer, on behalf of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

This article was published at www.annals.org on 14 August 2012.

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Summaries for Patients are presented for informational purposes only. These summaries are not a substitute for advice from your own medical provider. If you have questions about this material, or need medical advice about your own health or situation, please contact your physician. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the American College of Physicians.

Ann Intern Med. 2012;157(9):I-38. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-157-9-201211060-00527
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Who developed these recommendations?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a group of health experts that reviews published research and makes recommendations about preventive health care.

What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

Hearing loss is a common problem as people age. It affects 20% to 40% of people aged 50 years or older and more than 80% of people aged 80 years or older. Age is the most important risk factor for hearing loss. Other risk factors include exposure to loud noise; certain drugs or chemical exposures; frequent ear infections; genetic conditions; and some diseases, such as diabetes.

Hearing loss can have a negative effect on quality of life, independent function, and social interaction. Hearing loss is often gradual and many people do not recognize the problem or report it to their doctors. Ways to screen for hearing loss in primary care settings include questionnaires and handheld devices.

Since the Task Force's 1996 recommendation, studies have evaluated the effect of formal screening for hearing loss, so the USPSTF wanted to update its recommendations.

How did the USPSTF develop these recommendations?

The USPSTF reviewed studies that examined the benefits and harms of screening all older adults for hearing loss during primary care visits. A draft recommendation was posted for public comment. The USPSTF considered these comments before finalizing its recommendation.

What did the authors find?

The only trial that directly studied the effect of screening for hearing loss was not able to determine whether screening led to better hearing-related function. Other studies largely evaluated the effect of hearing aids in people with known hearing problems rather than problems detected through screening.

What does the USPSTF recommend that patients and doctors do?

The USPSTF cannot recommend what routine practice should be because there is not enough information to know whether screening adults aged 50 years or older for hearing loss improves outcomes. Doctors and patients should consider age and other risk factors for hearing loss, patient willingness to try a hearing aid if a problem is found, and competing health needs when deciding whether to screen older adults for hearing loss.

What are the cautions related to these recommendations?

These recommendations apply only to screening people who have not reported hearing problems. People who report hearing problems should be evaluated for hearing loss.





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