Addressing adult hearing loss in primary care


  • Marjorie C. McCullagh PhD RN PHCNS-BC,

    Associate Professor and Director, Corresponding author
    • Occupational Health Nursing Program, Division of Health Promotion and Risk Reduction, University of Michigan School of Nursing, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
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  • Karen Frank FNP-BC

    ANP Nurse Practitioner
    1. Post Acute Care Division, The Hospitalist Company, Inc, Farmington Hills, Michigan, USA
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Correspondence to M.C. McCullagh: e-mail:



To (a) determine the extent to which primary care providers screen adults for environmental or occupational hearing loss during the primary care visit and (b) determine what techniques are used to screen for hearing loss in the adult primary care patient.


Although the prevalence of hearing loss is high, the frequency and techniques of screening for hearing loss among primary care providers are unknown. According to the United States Preventative Task Force, hearing screening promotes early detection, adequate treatment, and improved quality of life.


It is a retrospective audit.


Thirty client records were randomly selected from two clinics in 2009 for this retrospective patient record audit.


Physical assessment of the structure of the auditory system was completed in all cases selected. Hearing acuity in all cases was determined by patient self-assessment, as indicated on patient-completed history forms; there was no documentation of objective assessment of auditory function.


Given the low correlation between perceived and measured hearing ability, assessment of hearing ability by patient report alone may result in failure to detect hearing loss. Research into the nature and extent of barriers to hearing assessment in primary care needs to be explored, and criteria for screening of adults in the primary care setting should be established.