Hearing Screening Standards
For years there have been different ways that family doctors or primary care physicians have performed hearing screenings and many of the screenings were not evidence-based and did not provide consistent results. In order to begin the process of having hearing screenings become recommended, or even mandatory, at certain ages, it was important to have a standardized approach that would create consistent results, that was reliable and evidence-based. Hearing screenings are not substitutes for audiologists. The initial results help a physician know when to make a referral for a comprehensive hearing test.
Who this impacts
- Seniors who may have a hearing loss but do not know they have hearing loss or may downplay its importance
- Insurance providers
- Medical clinics
- Anyone who is looking for an initial hearing screening
One of the first goals of the first Age-Related Hearing Loss Task Force (began in 2014) was to work with practicing physicians, researchers, public health staff and advocates to create a standardized way to offer hearing screenings. The solution needs to balance the small amount of time a doctor has with each patient, be evidence-based, offer consistent results, and be easy enough that people would be willing to adopt the screening even if it is not mandatory.
As a result of the Age-Related Hearing Loss Screening Standards Work Group, there was a consensus recommendation (2015):
- Using a handheld audiometer to screen with a 40dB threshold. This screening requires minimal training, the device is calibrated, the screening happens in a quiet space, and the handheld audiometer is relatively affordable.
- If an audiometer is not available, then the global question: “Do you have difficulty hearing?” is actually quite reliable, but not perfect, and is fast and free.
Anyone who would not be able to hear the tone at 40dB would clearly benefit from a comprehensive test with an audiologist and potentially hearing aids or another assistive listening devise.
Who was involved
- Minnesota Department of Health
- Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division
- Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs
- Minnesota Department of Human Services
- University of Minnesota’s Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences
- University of Minnesota’s Department of Otolaryngology
- University of Minnesota’s Family Medicine and Community Health
- Minnesota Medical Association
- Hearing Loss Association of America