Benefit of Routine Hearing Tests Unknown, Panel Says

We’re all told that as we age it’s generally a good idea to schedule basic, routine hearing tests with our doctor to keep tabs on how well our hearing is, but a panel of experts at the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are bringing into question the benefit of routine hearing tests.

The panel reviewed evidence from 1950 on up to early 2010 and found that there is no way to measure how beneficial routine hearing tests are, and what the potential harms, if any, of having the tests could be.

“We just don’t have enough evidence to show there would be a benefit [to having routine hearing tests],” said Dr. Albert Siu, a vice chairman of the USPSTF. “Hearing loss hasn’t been adequately addressed in the research literature.”

To be clear, Siu is referring only to asymptomatic adults–those who don’t appear to show any clear signs of hearing loss. If you are showing signs–or even think you’re showing signs–the USPSTF recommends that you should absolutely bring it up to your doctor, who can order tests to determine whether you have hearing loss, and the extent of it.

“If you have a hearing problem, you should absolutely bring it up with your doctor,” Siu told Reuters Health, adding: “This is not about fancy audiometric screenings. This is just about simple screenings that doctors and clinicians can do in the office.”

The real point behind the study is to show the necessity for further research into hearing loss, as well as the potential benefits and harms of having them. There’s no evidence to suggest that routine hearing tests could be bad for you, so you shouldn’t take the report as an excuse to avoid speaking with your doctor about your hearing.

“I think the recommendation is nothing more than a call to action for researchers,” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association vice president Jaynee A. Handelsman told Reuters Health.

“The gist of the recommendation is that there is not sufficient evidence to say whether we are or we’re not supposed to be screening adults 50 years old and older.”

[Image credit:]