Purpose: This investigation is a follow-up to a national survey of hearing/balance screening and referrals in elderly patients by primary care physicians (PCPs). This local study focused on PCPs who actually treated elderly patients and could be contacted and followed in a single community.
Method: PCPs in Santa Barbara, CA, were surveyed with a 35-item questionnaire via mailings, phone calls, and hand delivery to determine their participation in, knowledge of, and attitudes toward hearing/balance screening and referrals for the elderly. Potential respondents were 154 PCPs obtained from WebMD, Google, and telephone and provider directories for Santa Barbara. Of the 154 surveys mailed/delivered, 33 were returned undeliverable or unusable, and 32 were returned usable, producing an overall response rate of 26.5%.
Results: Results were similar to those of the national study; PCPs were unlikely to screen for hearing/balance problems unless patients complained. The PCPs were unaware of patient self-report screening methods and probably would not use them in the future.
Conclusions: These PCPs acknowledged the importance of hearing/balance problems in the elderly, but their responses demonstrated insufficiencies in knowledge and potential attitudinal, time, and reimbursement obstacles that could interfere with their screening for hearing/balance problems. Audiologists should partner with PCPs to improve ways of meeting patients' needs but must consider resource/payoff implications for such endeavours.