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hearing-tests-for-50-plus-not-advisedLack of Research Causes Task Force to Leave Out Hearing Test Advice.

There are plenty of benefits to having a hearing test. They are cheap, cause no known health harms and hearing test results can catch adults who may have compromised hearing and need a hearing aid.

That’s why it seems odd that a statement published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on August 13, 2012 by the United States Preventative Services Task Force, did not include advice for those 50 and older to get hearing testing.

Apparently, there just hasn’t been enough research to prove that a hearing screening test would be beneficial.

Why Aren’t Hearing Screenings Recommended?

The reason why the task force did not advise hearing tests for adults actually seems pretty simple. The vice chairman of the task force, Dr. Albert Siu, said that there is not enough evidence and research to show that adults would benefit from having their hearing screened.

It’s true that there has not been a lot of research on testing for hearing problems in adults, which is unusual considering that 27 million adults age 50 and up are affected by mild to severe hearing loss. 

Hearing loss is the third most common health problem affecting adults after hypertension and arthritis, but only one randomized controlled study, which is the most preferred method of medical testing, has been conducted on hearing loss.

This study on hearing loss tests is known as the Screening for Auditory Impairment-Which Assessment Test and concluded that the adults that had problems show up on the screening were much more likely to use a hearing aid a year later. The study had its limits, though, mainly that many participants mentioned some hearing problems beforehand, where the task force’s target demographic is adults showing no symptoms of hearing loss.

Why is There So Little Research on Hearing Tests?

Given that hearing loss is such a common problem, why is there so little research on hearing loss screenings? This might actually be because that hearing loss is so common. Hearing loss is mostly considered a natural aging consequence and is commonly underdiagnosed and undertreated.

Vice president of the audiology practice at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Jaynee Handelsman, said that the report is mostly to call on the attention of researchers to do more studies on hearing tests for adults. Currently, the organization advises adults ages 50 and older to get hearing tests every three years.

Hearing Loss Statistics

The association even surveyed 2,232 older adults and found that 68 percent felt that their hearing health did not get the same attention as their other health issues. 76 percent said that their hearing health was of great importance to them. Even so, fewer than half of the participants had been screened for hearing problems, where hearing test results can catch hearing health problems.

It’s expected that fewer than 15 percent of seniors nationally have hearing testing. While physicians have differing opinions about whether or not to screen for hearing problems, for now, the task force’s recommendation (or lack thereof) stands from the paucity of research.

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