Tablet-based Screening for Hearing Loss: Feasibility of Testing in Nonspecialty Locations

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Abstract

Objective:

To determine the feasibility of audiometric screening with tablet-based applications in typical clinic locations: examination room and clinic waiting area.

Study Design:

A randomized prospective study.

Setting:

Tertiary referral center.

Patients:

Participants included 107 adult patients referred for audiometric testing to assess hearing loss.

Intervention:

Each patient completed standard audiometry testing and one of three tablet-based audiometric applications that included pure-tone air conduction testing. The tablet-based audiometric testing was completed in a quiet examination room and a clinic waiting area using noise-cancellation headphones. A 5-question patient satisfaction survey was completed at the end of the testing.

Main Outcome Measure:

Thresholds at each frequency were compared with those obtained from tablet-based audiometric applications in a quiet examination room and clinic waiting area. Sensitivity and specificity of each tablet-based audiogram in detecting a hearing loss at each frequency was determined.

Results:

All three tablet-based audiometric applications were user-friendly for hearing screening. However, one application was shown to be feasible and the most accurate of the three tested with 92% of thresholds within 10 dB of conventional audiometry across all test conditions. This application had a sensitivity of 96 to 100% and specificity of 72 to 85% for identifying a hearing loss in each frequency tested. Variability was noted among applications between testing in a quiet clinic room and testing in the clinic waiting area. Patients showed no preference for either conventional audiometry or the tablet-based device.

Conclusion:

Tablet-based audiometric applications can be used to screen for hearing loss in typical clinic locations. This tool does not replace standard audiometry testing but allows for screening for hearing disorders when appropriate and in settings without access to audiometric equipment.

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