U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says no to hearing loss screenings

Photo credit: Bundesinnung Hörakustiker licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is a federal committee that recommends what screening tests should be performed by doctors and others to keep Americans healthy and to detect asymptomatic disease. By definition, a screening test is not prompted by symptoms or patient complaints–that would be a diagnostic test–so the standard for performing a screening test is very high. The decision for USPSTF to recommend a screening test must be strongly supported by scientific evidence.

The USPSTF reviewed the literature and concluded that the evidence doesn’t yet exist for hearing loss screening. There is extensive research showing that hearing loss is strongly correlated with dementia, but the studies examining whether providing hearing aids to those with hearing loss prevents or delays dementia haven’t been completed.

I am disappointed. Many adults with hearing loss don’t know that they have hearing loss, and their lives can be improved with hearing aids. Let’s hope that when the research is completed the evidence will be clear: treating hearing loss benefits adults as well as children.

Until then, we can prevent our own hearing loss by avoiding loud noise or wearing earplugs if we can’t avoid noise exposure, and can help educate others about preventing hearing loss.

Because if something sounds loud, it’s too loud, and auditory damage will follow.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

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