Screening for Hearing Loss at 50+
A review of the evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force by Roger Chou, MD of the Oregon Health & Science University and colleagues regarding the advisability of screening adults 50 and older for hearing loss found that since this problem is common in older adults, detecting it could "lead to interventions to improve hearing-related function and quality of life." The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
"The prevalence of hearing loss is 20% to 40% in adults aged 50 years or older and more than 80% for those aged 80 years or older," the authors wrote. "Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is typically gradual, progressive, and bilateral. Other factors contributing to hearing loss in older adults include genetic factors, exposure to loud noises, exposure to ototoxic agents, history of inner ear infections, and presence of systemic diseases (such as diabetes mellitus).
The researchers point out that older adults may not realize that they have hearing loss because it is relatively mild or slowly progressive or they may perceive hearing loss but not seek evaluation for it. "Only 10% to 20% of older adults with hearing loss have ever used hearing aids," they wrote. "Screening could identify people who could benefit from therapies for hearing loss."
Chou and his team also reported that they "did not find direct evidence on harms of screening or treatments with hearing aids."