Self-reported hearing loss in baby boomers from the Busselton Healthy Ageing Study: audiometric correspondence and predictive value

J Am Acad Audiol. 2013 Jun;24(6):514-21; quiz 529. doi: 10.3766/jaaa.24.6.7.


Background: The baby boomer population will become high users of the health-care system in coming years. Self-report of hearing loss at a primary health-care visit may offer timely referrals to audiological services, but there has been no population-based study of self-reported hearing loss in the baby boomer generation.

Purpose: To determine the clinical value and audiometric correspondence of self-reported hearing loss as a screening tool for the baby boomer population.

Research design: A population-based study, Busselton Healthy Ageing Study (BHAS), surveying baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 from the shire of Busselton, Western Australia.

Study sample: A randomized sample of noninstitutionalized baby-boomers listed on the electoral roll (n = 6690) and resident in the shire are eligible to participate. This study reports on data from the first 1004 attendees (53.5% female) with a mean age of 56.23 (SD = 5.43).

Data collection and analysis: Data from a self-report question on hearing loss and diagnostic pure tone audiometry was utilized for this study. Analysis included screening performance measures of self-report compared to audiometric cut-offs, receiver operator curve (ROC) to determine optimal level, analysis of variance to compare hearing status to self-report, and binary logistic regression to determine best audiometric predictors.

Results: Of the sample, 16% self-reported hearing loss (72.1% males). Logistic regression indicated 4000 Hz as the most important individual frequency related to self-report while the four-frequency average (500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz) >25 dB in the worse ear was the most significant averaged cutoff with 68% sensitivity and 87% specificity. Of those who self-reported a hearing loss, 80% had either a four-frequency average hearing loss >25 dB in the worse ear or a high-frequency average (4000 and 8000 Hz) hearing loss greater than 35 dB in the worse ear.

Conclusions: Baby boomer adults who self-report hearing impairment on direct inquiry are most likely to have a hearing loss. A simple question at a primary health care visit may facilitate a timely referral for audiological services in a baby boomer adult, who may be more amenable to rehabilitation.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Surveys*
  • Hearing Loss / diagnosis*
  • Hearing Loss / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • ROC Curve
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Self Report*
  • Western Australia / epidemiology