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September 1996

Hearing Loss in a Memory Disorders Clinic: A Specially Vulnerable Population

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, College of Medicine (Dr Gold), and the Department of Communication Sciences/Disorders (Ms Lightfoot and Dr Hnath-Chisolm), University of South Florida, Tampa.

Arch Neurol. 1996;53(9):922-928. doi:10.1001/archneur.1996.00550090134019

Objectives:  To determine the prevalence and characteristics of hearing loss in patients undergoing examination because of a memory disorder, to determine whether currently used screening tools were adequate for use in this specific population, and to determine if patients with Alzheimer disease reliably report hearing problems.

Design:  Case-control study.

Patients:  A consecutive sample of 52 patients: 30 patients who met the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke/Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association criteria for probable Alzheimer disease (group 1) and 22 patients with other forms of cognitive impairment (group 2).

Methods:  Patients underwent a hearing screening that included a case history, a visual inspection of the external ear canal and tympanic membrane, and pure tone audiometry. Patients and their caregivers completed a questionnaire intended to assess hearing impairment and perceived disability.

Outcome Measures:  Pass or fail on pure tone audiometry and pass or fail on a hearing impairment questionnaire.

Results:  Of the 52 patients, 49 had significant hearing loss. No difference was found in the failure rate between patients in groups 1 and 2. In group 1, a significant discrepancy was found between the patient's self-report and that of their caregivers, whereas in group 2, the self-report was reliable. The prevalence of hearing loss in this population greatly exceeds the prevalence in healthy aged controls.

Conclusion:  The extraordinarily high prevalence of hearing loss in this selected population suggests that a hearing evaluation should be part of any assessment of cognitive function.

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