Hearing plays a vital role in how we interact with others, yet it is a sense we often take for granted. It is essential to our well-being, but few of us have access to regular hearing screening. Why is that?
Traditionally, hearing testing required audiological expertise, specialized hearing screening equipment, and an expensive acoustic chamber, making it a difficult offering for the average family practice.
The good news is, with today’s ongoing advancements in technology, including digital audiometers, offering your patients a clinically valid, diagnostic hearing test is now a possibility. These modern, mobile hearing screening audiometers make accurate hearing testing fast, simple, and cost-effective. This article summarizes why you should consider adding mobile hearing testing to your practice and how to get started.
Why Add Hearing Testing to Your Primary Care Practice?
A physician’s primary goal is always to provide the best care possible for your patients. When onboarding a new patient, you probably conduct a series of tests to gain a baseline assessment of their overall health. Once this is established, you continuously monitor to measure changes over time. A person’s hearing is a critical measure of that initial baseline audiometric assessment.
Hearing loss is reported by the World Health Organization as the world’s largest disability and is especially significant in seniors. One out of three over the age of 65 and 80% over the age of 85 years are affected by hearing loss. According to U.S. census reports, Americans aged 65 and older will reach an estimated 83.7 million by the year 2050. This is almost double the number in 2012.
While seniors are the demographic most at risk for hearing loss, they most certainly are not the only ones affected. Between two to three children out of 1,000 are born with a detectable level of hearing loss, and almost 30 million Americans over the age of 12 have hearing loss in both of their ears. And according to the Journal of Pediatrics, 12.5% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 suffer from noise-induced hearing loss as a result of listening to music through earbuds at unsafe volumes. When hearing loss in children is left undetected, they will often suffer speech, cognitive, and even social development delays.
Hearing loss can be caused by many things – infections, trauma, some medications, or a number of different progressive diseases of the ear. Another potential cause, although rare, is some types of brain tumors. Administering hearing screening for your patients is an important first step to identifying any serious problems. Ideally, everyone should get his or her hearing tested on a regular basis. The best way to encourage this is by making hearing screening as convenient as possible for your patients.
How Often Should Hearing be Tested?
When offering hearing tests in your practice, you could screen your patients during their routine physical exam or test when they present any symptoms of hearing loss. By adding hearing testing, you are ensuring that it becomes a regular part of a baseline screening process as well as ongoing care. It is recommended that adults between the ages of 19 and 65 have their hearing tested at least every ten years or after any significant change in health status. It is also smart to do regular testing while the patient is going through treatment with new medication. Children, on the other hand, should be tested much more frequently. It is recommended to test yearly in preschool and then every two to three years after that.
What Hearing Screening Equipment Do You Need?
As mentioned earlier, traditionally, hearing testing required specialized equipment and audiological expertise. This is no longer your only option. SHOEBOX Audiometry is an automated, portable, iPad-based audiometer that is easy to use, highly reliable and inexpensive compared to conventional audiometer equipment. SHOEBOX has an automated, interactive interface that functions almost like playing a game. The patient drags and drops a series of icons based on whether or not they hear tones presented at different frequencies. In fact, the system is so simple to use that the test could even be administered by your office assistant or nurse while the patient is still in the waiting room.
Offering a hearing test as part of an overall health assessment makes good sense. Technology now makes it possible for you to offer this essential service to all your patients and then refer only those who require follow-up care to an audiologist or other hearing health specialist.
The automated, portable nature of SHOEBOX is completely changing how hearing testing is performed, opening the door to a mobile hearing clinic. Considering that hearing loss is the world’s leading disability, it is critical that we enable more access to diagnostic hearing testing. When better to do that than at your annual physical exam?
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Renée is a licensed audiologist and CAOHC-certified Professional Supervisor (PS/A) whose professional background includes clinical experience in cochlear implants, pediatric audiology, global hearing health, adult rehabilitation, auditory neuropathy, FM system optimization, ototoxicity, and the genetics of hearing loss. As the Director of Audiology, she is responsible for clinical applicability, audiological testing program review, education, and support guidance for SHOEBOX Audiometry.