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March 23/30, 2021

Screening for Hearing Loss in Older Adults: Insufficient Evidence Does Not Mean Insufficient Benefit

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
  • 2Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri
JAMA. 2021;325(12):1162-1163. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.2020

In this issue of JAMA, in the updated Recommendation Statement on screening for hearing loss, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) “concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for hearing loss in older adults (I statement)”1; this recommendation is unchanged from the 2012 USPSTF review.2 The recommendations have important implications for the US population because the incidence of hearing loss increases substantially with age and the number of people 65 years or older is 54.2 million, which has increased by more than one-third (34%, or nearly 14 million) during the past decade. By 2034, there will be 77.0 million people 65 or older.3 Furthermore, the passage of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, which enables adults with self-described mild-to-moderate hearing loss to access over-the-counter hearing aids without being seen by a hearing health care professional, adds importance to strategies for screening and identification of those with hearing loss who would benefit from seeing a hearing professional.