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Over 50: Should you get your hearing screened?

August 16, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
When it comes to hearing loss you might be surprised to find out how many Baby-Boomers say they've got hearing issues. Years of loud concerts and noise have taken their toll. But are people 50 and older adequately screened? It's a controversial topic.

A simple test can find out how well 50-year-old Desiree Dismuke can still understand and discern high-frequency sounds. Her family had been complaining about her hearing.

Like many Baby-Boomers, Dismuke blames years of loud concerts and noisy dance floors.

Baseline screening starting at age 50 is the current recommendation. But now the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is reversing its stance on the importance of regular screening.

After reviewing all the medical literature, the group says screening made little difference in patients who report no hearing problems. And so the group no longer recommends it.

But Dr. William Luxford, with the House Ear Clinic, says that's the problem: many seniors won't report a hearing problem.

"Most adults, as you may know, as you get older and have family, they don't necessarily complain. It's important to identify them actually early so we can do something about it," said Luxford.

However, 20 to 40 percent of those age 50, and 80 percent of those over age 80 do have evidence of some hearing loss. For them, screening does make sense, since hearing loss can lead to social isolation and the risk for emotional dysfunction.

"When you have a difficulty communicating with family and friends, you begin to become isolated, and it makes it more difficult for you to want to participate," said Luxford.

Dr. Luxford says the issue is cost. A hearing test like this can run $100 to $200. But despite the task force's new recommendations, he believes it's simply common sense for people over 50 to seek screening.

And just because you have hearing loss doesn't mean you automatically need a hearing aid. Just knowing where you're at can help protect what hearing you have.


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