Telephone Screening for Hearing Loss Questioned
It sure sounds convenient. Pick up the phone, dial a number, listen to some sounds, and find out if you have a hearing loss. That's even better than the drive-through lane at your favorite fast food chain. But how good is hearing screening by telephone?
Hearing screening by telephone does alert the public to hearing loss and does convince many people to seek an in-depth hearing evaluation. But, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's (ASHA) Committee on Audiologic Evaluation, telephone hearing screening does have limitations.
Test signals are limited to frequencies below 3000 Hz (cycles per second) so that hearing at higher frequencies is not screened. Also, the physical nature of the signal that is actually heard depends on factors, such as the telephone answering machine used to conduct the tests, the telephone transmission lines, the model of telephone used by the caller, background noise, the response of the telephone for that particular call, and even the position of the telephone receiver relative to the listener's ear.
Because of these factors, two persons calling the same telephone screening number from different telephones may receive somewhat different tests. In fact, the same person using the same telephone may not receive exactly the same test each time he or she calls.
The committee also pointed out that ASHA guidelines recommend that hearing screening be conducted or supervised by an audiologist using a calibrated audiometer in a relatively quiet test environment. According to the committee's report, hearing screenings that do not comply with the ASHA guidelines are being conducted via the telephone in many geographical locations.
The committee concluded that telephone hearing screening should be viewed with caution until its validity and efficacy are demonstrated.