Validation of self-reported hearing loss. The Blue Mountains Hearing Study

Int J Epidemiol. 2001 Dec;30(6):1371-8. doi: 10.1093/ije/30.6.1371.


Purpose: Large-scale epidemiological studies have often used self-report to estimate prevalence of age-related hearing loss. However, few large population-based studies have validated self-report against measured hearing loss. Our study aimed to assess the performance of a single question and a brief hearing handicap questionnaire in identifying individuals with hearing loss, against the gold standard of pure-tone audiometry.

Methods: We examined 2015 residents, aged 55-99 years, living in the west of Sydney, Australia, who participated in the Blue Mountains Hearing Study during 1997-1999. Audiologists administered a comprehensive questionnaire, including the question: 'Do you feel you have a hearing loss?' The Shortened Hearing Handicap Inventory for Elderly (HHIE-S) was also administered during the hearing examination, which included pure-tone audiometry. The single question and HHIE-S were compared with measured losses at levels >25, >40 and >60 decibels hearing level (dBHL) to indicate mild, moderate and marked hearing impairment, for pure-tone averages (PTA) of responses to 500, 1000, 2000 and 4000 Hz.

Results: The single question yielded reasonable sensitivity and specificity for hearing impairment, and was minimally affected by age and gender. HHIE-S scores >8 had lower sensitivity but higher specificity and positive predictive value. The HHIE-S performed slightly better in younger than older subjects and performed better for moderate hearing impairment.

Conclusions: In this older population with a high prevalence of hearing loss (39.4%), both a question about hearing and the HHIE-S appeared sufficiently sensitive and specific to provide reasonable estimates of hearing loss prevalence. Both could be recommended for use in epidemiological studies that aim to assess the magnitude of the burden caused by age-related sensory impairment but cannot measure hearing loss by audiometry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Hearing Disorders / diagnosis
  • Hearing Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • ROC Curve
  • Self Disclosure
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires