At a time when roughly one in five teens has some degree of hearing loss, researchers at Penn State College of Medicine recently determined a major flaw in the standardized hearing screening policy recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Created in conjunction with Bright Futures, a children’s health organization, the AAP preventative care strategy includes screening teens for hearing loss by first asking them subjective questions. Those whose responses indicate the likelihood of hearing loss then receive additional objective testing.
Focusing on juniors at Hershey High School in Hershey, PA, the Penn State research team asked students to answer 10 hearing screening questions developed by Bright Futures as well as additional questions assessing other potential risk factors for hearing loss. The students also took the Pennsylvania state-mandated hearing test and a test developed by the researchers themselves to better identify high-frequency hearing loss.
The results showed that because the Bright Futures subjective questions were not best suited to adolescents and relied heavily on a teen’s ability to honestly evaluate their own health, they were not an accurate indicator of hearing loss. Also, the state-mandated hearing test, which screens mostly for low-frequency hearing loss, was found to have a sensitivity, or positivity, rate of 13 percent. Only the Penn State-designed test had a 100 percent sensitivity rate.
The research team is currently working to develop an objective hearing screening test specifically tailored for teens to better determine a wider range of hearing loss.
Read the published study results in the Journal of Medical Screening