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Self-Reported Hearing Loss in Baby Boomers from the Busselton Healthy Ageing Study: Audiometric Correspondence and Predictive Value
06 August 2020 (online)
Background: The baby boomer population will become high users of the health-care system in coming years. Self-report of hearing loss at a primary health-care visit may offer timely referrals to audiological services, but there has been no population-based study of self-reported hearing loss in the baby boomer generation.
Purpose: To determine the clinical value and audiometric correspondence of self-reported hearing loss as a screening tool for the baby boomer population.
Research Design: A population-based study, Busselton Healthy Ageing Study (BHAS), surveying baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 from the shire of Busselton, Western Australia.
Study Sample: A randomized sample of noninstitutionalized baby-boomers listed on the electoral roll (n = 6690) and resident in the shire are eligible to participate. This study reports on data from the first 1004 attendees (53.5% female) with a mean age of 56.23 (SD = 5.43).
Data Collection and Analysis: Data from a self-report question on hearing loss and diagnostic pure tone audiometry was utilized for this study. Analysis included screening performance measures of self-report compared to audiometric cut-offs, receiver operator curve (ROC) to determine optimal level, analysis of variance to compare hearing status to self-report, and binary logistic regression to determine best audiometric predictors.
Results: Of the sample, 16% self-reported hearing loss (72.1% males). Logistic regression indicated 4000 Hz as the most important individual frequency related to self-report while the four-frequency average (500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz) >25 dB in the worse ear was the most significant averaged cutoff with 68% sensitivity and 87% specificity. Of those who self-reported a hearing loss, 80% had either a four-frequency average hearing loss >25 dB in the worse ear or a high-frequency average (4000 and 8000 Hz) hearing loss greater than 35 dB in the worse ear.
Conclusions: Baby boomer adults who self-report hearing impairment on direct inquiry are most likely to have a hearing loss. A simple question at a primary health care visit may facilitate a timely referral for audiological services in a baby boomer adult, who may be more amenable to rehabilitation.