Hearing loss commonly affects quality of life in the elderly, yet is often neglected.
To investigate the impact of untreated age-related hearing loss on the quality of life of elderly individuals, and to assess the usefulness of quality of life questionnaires as screening tools for significant hearing loss.
We recruited 80 patients aged 50 years or more with untreated hearing impairment. The Short Form 36 Health Survey and the Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly Screening Version questionnaire were administered.
There was no significant association between severity of hearing impairment and Short Form 36 Health Survey scores. However, dose-graded correlation was observed between severity of hearing loss and Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly Screening Version questionnaire scores (p < 0.001). A score for the latter questionnaire of more than 8 was 72.8 per cent sensitive and 71.4 per cent specific in detecting clinically significant hearing loss of at least 40 dB (receiver operating characteristic = 0.83).
The Short Form 36 Health Survey, a generic measure, lacked specificity and sensitivity in detecting clinically significant hearing loss. However, significant hearing impairment was reflected in the Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly Screening Version questionnaire scores, suggesting that this is a good, disease-specific screening tool. A combination of functional (i.e. the Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly Screening Version questionnaire) and physiological (i.e. audiometric) assessment is recommended to investigate hearing loss in elderly individuals.
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