OBJECTIVE : To examine whether self-reported hearing difficulty is an accurate measure of hearing loss compared with standard hearing screening with pure tone audiometry in rural and urban communities. DESIGN : Convenience sampling. SETTING : Urban and rural areas of Western Australia. PARTICIPANTS : A total of 2090 participants (923 men; 1165 women; 2 unknown) aged 20-100 years presenting for community-based hearing screening in urban (982) and rural (1090) areas. INTERVENTIONS : Self-reported hearing difficulty assessed with the Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly - Screening questionnaire. Hearing loss defined as average hearing thresholds >25 dB in the better ear using screening audiometry conducted at 500, 1000, 2000 and 4000 Hz. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES : Nil. RESULTS : The Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly - Screening was sensitive (≥60 years = 76.69%; <60 years = 71.67%) but not specific (≥60 years = 45.15%; <60 years = 49.63%) for identifying hearing loss. The <60 age group had a hearing loss prevalence of 25.6%, and a false-positive rate of 67.12% compared with a prevalence of 69.12% and false-positive rate of 29.77% for the ≥60 age group. For all ages, rural participants were more likely to have a disabling hearing loss (odds ratio 2.04 (95% confidence interval, 1.55-2.67); χ(2) (1) = 27.28; P < 0.001), but there were no significant differences in hearing aid uptake. CONCLUSIONS :
Patients in rural areas presenting for hearing screenings are more likely to suffer hearing loss than adults in urban areas. We suggest rural health practitioners incorporate a self-reported hearing loss questionnaire into health check-ups for adults, particularly patients aged ≥60 years due to the high prevalence of hearing loss in this group.