Hearing screening in the community

Gabrielle H. Saunders, Melissa T. Frederick, Shien Pei C. Silverman, Tina Penman, Austin Gardner, Theresa H. Chisolm, Celia D. Escabi, Preyanca H. Oree, Laura C. Westermann, Victoria A. Sanchez, Michelle L. Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Adults typically wait 7-10 yr after noticing hearing problems before seeking help, possibly because they are unaware of the extent of their impairment. Hearing screenings, frequently conducted at health fairs, community events, and retirement centers can increase this awareness. To our knowledge, there are no published studies in which testing conditions and outcomes have been examined for multiple "typical screening events." Purpose: The purpose of this article is to report hearing screening outcomes for pure tones and self-report screening tests and to examine their relationshipwith ambient noise levels in various screening environments. Study Sample: One thousand nine hundred fifty-four individuals who completed a hearing screening at one of 191 community-based screening events that took place in the Portland,OR, and Tampa, FL,metro areas. Data Collection and Analysis: The data were collected during the recruitment phase of a large multisite study. All participants received a hearing screening that consisted of otoscopy, pure-tone screening, and completion of the Hearing Handicap Inventory-Screening Version (HHI-S). In addition, ambient sound pressure levels were measured just before pure-tone testing. Results: Many more individuals failed the pure-tone screening (n51,238) and then failed the HHI-S (n5 796). The percentage of individuals who failed the pure-tone screening increased linearly with age from ,20% for ages ,45 yr to almost 100% for individuals aged $85 yr. On the other hand, the percentage of individuals who failed the HHI-S remained unchanged at approximately 40% for individuals aged $55 yr. Ambient noise levels varied considerably across the hearing screening locations. They impacted the pure-tone screen failure rate but not the HHI-S failure rate. Conclusions: It is important to select screening locations with a quiet space for pure-tone screening, use headphones with good passive attenuation, measure sound levels regularly during hearing screening events, halt testing if ambient noise levels are high, and/or alert individuals to the possibility of a false-positive screening failure. The data substantiate prior findings that the relationship between pure-tone sensitivity and reported hearing loss changes with age. Although it might be possible to develop age-specific HHI-S failure criteria to adjust for this, such an endeavor is not recommended because perceived difficulties are the best predictor ofhearing health behaviors. Instead, it is proposed that a public health focus on education about hearing and hearing loss would be more effective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-152
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Audiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • age-related hearing loss
  • hearing screening
  • self-report

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Speech and Hearing


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