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New Hearing Loss Screening Recommendations Reveal Gaps in Hearing Health Research

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent group of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, has released recommendations on screening for hearing loss in adults ages 50 and over. The recommendation statement is published in the August 14 online edition of Annals of Internal Medicine. The operations of the USPSTF are supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The task force has determined that there isn’t enough evidence to recommend for or against screening adults ages 50 and older for hearing loss if they currently lack symptoms. The task force notes that because of the many existing gaps in research, it is unable to recommend screening guidelines for age-related hearing loss in primary care settings. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) is working to fund research to fill these gaps.

The task force recommendations echo the findings of a 2009 NIDCD Working Group on Accessible and Affordable Hearing Health Care for Adults, which was held to develop a research agenda to increase accessibility and affordability of hearing health care for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. Working group participants developed recommendations pertaining to all aspects of improving hearing health care accessibility, including hearing screening.

As a result of the workshop, the NIDCD is currently seeking grant applications to support research or infrastructure needs that will lead to more accessible and affordable hearing health care. Several studies have already been funded that delve into the screening of adults for hearing loss. More information about NIDCD funding opportunities in this area can be found here: NIDCD Research on Hearing Health Care. Since its inception, the NIDCD has funded considerable research on hearing loss and hearing aids. Developing and evaluating the effectiveness of screening methods—and determining if early access to hearing health care affects health outcomes later in life—continue to be priorities for the NIDCD, as noted in the Strategic Plan.

The NIDCD also offers fact sheets and information about health conditions and topics related to hearing loss in adults.

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