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Introduction: This study aims to determine the prevalence of occult hearing loss in elderly inpatients and to evaluate feasibility of opportunistic hearing screening in elderly inpatients.

Search methods: Subjects over the age of 70 were recruited from the elderly care wards at the Royal Berkshire Hospital between July and September 2011. A ward-based hearing screen was performed to identify individuals with hearing loss. This comprised of a subjective assessment of hearing disability, and a whisper test. Subjects who failed the whisper test or reported hearing difficulties were offered audiological assessment including pure tone audiometry.

Results: Hearing screening was performed on 51 patients, aged between 70 and 95. Twenty-one patients (41%) reported hearing loss, and 16 (31%) failed the whisper test. This resulted in 37 patients (73%) being referred for audiological assessment. Sixteen patients (31%) were found to have aidable hearing loss. As a result of this study, 10 patients were fitted with hearing aids (20%). Despite limitations of background noise measured (up to 50 dB), 8 of the 37 referred patients declined a hearing aid.

Conclusions: This study highlights that there is a high incidence of occult hearing loss in elderly inpatients, and suggests that consideration should be given to opportunistic hearing screening, to address this unmet need.

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