Role of general practitioners in managing age-related hearing loss

Julie M. Schneider, Bamini Gopinath, Catherine M. McMahon, Helena C. Britt, Christopher M. Harrison, Tim Usherwood, Stephen R. Leeder, Paul Mitchell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To assess the extent to which general practitioners in Australia are engaged in identifying age-related hearing loss and facilitating its management. Design, setting and participants: Cross-sectional analysis of data collected between 1998 and 2000 from the Blue Mountains Hearing Study (BMHS), a representative population-based cohort of people aged ≥ 50 years in two postcode areas west of Sydney. Also analysed were data collected between 2003 and 2008 from random samples of Australian GPs who participated in the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) study, a national continuous cross-sectional survey of GP activity. Main outcome measures: Rate of facilitating management and identification of hearing loss in older patients; content of GP-patient encounters with hearing-impaired people; characteristics of participants seeking help from their GP. Results: Of older people in the BMHS with measured (objective) bilateral hearing loss, about a third reported seeking help from their GP. BEACH survey data showed that only about 3 per 1000 GP consultations with patients aged ≥ 50 years involved management of age-related hearing loss. For every 100 age-related hearing problems managed, GPs undertook 12 procedural treatments, provided 20 referrals to specialists, and made 29 referrals to allied health professionals. Conclusion: In their routine consultations with patients, GPs have opportunities to identify hearing loss and appropriately refer patients to specialists or allied health professionals. Although GPs are responding to patient presentations for hearing loss, referring around 50% of cases, there appear to be relatively few cases in which hearing loss is identified opportunistically. Levels of identification and management of hearing loss by GPs in Australia are relatively low.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-23
Number of pages4
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2010


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