19 November 2009

General practitioners overlooking patients' hearing loss

Many general practitioners ignore, overlook or fail to mention disabling hearing loss in their patients, according to a study conducted in the United States.

The study among patients with severe hearing loss found that their GP's identified little more than one in four as suffering from hearing loss in their medical records. More than one in three were even described by their doctors' notes as normal hearing.

The study was carried out by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, Massachusetts.

The researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary reviewed medical records of recently hearing screened patients. Among those, 100 patients found to be likely to have suffered from disabling hearing loss in both ears for at least two years prior to the screening were identified for closer review.

Undocumented hearing loss
Even hearing loss severe enough to make doctor-patient communication difficult was most likely to remain undocumented in the medical records. As many as 72 of the patient records failed to mention the individual patient's hearing loss. In 36 of the 100 instances, patients were even described by their doctors as having normal hearing.

The study indicated that many general practitioners are often unaware of hearing loss in their patients.

Christopher Halpin, lead author of the study, stated that the findings constitute “an opportunity for both patients and physicians to better report, document and accommodate for hearing loss.”

Source: The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary http://www.masseyeandear.org

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