Hearing loss is the second most common disability in the United States and comes with it a higher risk for being diagnosed with significant health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, dementia and depression, as well as higher health care cost and use. The Early Auditory Referral-Primary Care (EAR-PC) study was designed to address the lack of data about hearing loss screening. Implemented in real-world, community-based clinics, it evaluated the effect of a tailored electronic clinical alert appearing at all visits of patients 55 and older, to encourage clinicians to ask, "Do you have difficulty with your hearing?" The study's lead author is Philip Zazove, M.D., who is hearing impaired. He and his team of researchers evaluated a screening paradigm for identifying patients 55 years and older at risk of hearing loss from 10 family medicine clinics in two health systems for formal hearing evaluation and treatment. An electronic prompt alerted clinicians to screen for hearing loss during visits. About 25 percent of the patients had signs of hearing loss with the primary care screener (Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly). Referral rates to audiology specialists increased from baseline rates of 3.2 percent to 14.4 percent at one health system and 0.7 percent to 4.7 percent at the other. Considering the high prevalence of hearing loss and the impact on quality of life, increasing referral rates for audiology testing may improve health outcomes.
Effective Hearing Loss Screening in Primary Care: The Early Auditory Referral-Primary Care Study
Philip Zazove, MD, MM, et al
University of Michigan, School of Medicine, Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Annals of Family Medicine