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Screening all older adults for hearing loss more cost-effective than GP referral scheme

Screening all older adults for hearing loss is more cost-effective than the current GP referral system, according to a new UK evaluation.

A one-stage screen for bilateral hearing loss of at least 30 dB hearing level in patients aged at least 60 years was found to be the most cost-effective, producing an incremental cost-effective ratio of £1,461 compared to GP referral.

A two-stage screen, where eligible adults are sent a questionnaire and then invited for a screen if they fail the questionnaire, was not cost-effective.

The study cohort included adults aged 55-74 identified by GP records as potentially being eligible for audiology screening. The authors tested both one-stage and two-stage screening from the age of 60 up to 74.

Study lead Dr Anna Morris, specialty registrar in public health in Winchester, said: ‘The implementation of an adult hearing screen programme should be considered by policymakers in the UK as a cost-effective way to reduce unmet need for hearing aids and improve quality of life among older adults.’

Journal of Public Health, available online 30 September 2012