Approximately one-third of people over 65 years of age are affected by disabling hearing loss, making it one of the most common chronic health problems in the elderly population. This “invisible disability” can be misinterpreted as arrogance and reluctance to communicate, leading to social isolation, withdrawal and even depression. Many elders would wait for up to two years to arrange for a hearing check through the Hospital Authority, missing the opportunity for early management of the problem. Conducting community hearing screening at elderly centres can be a way out, but well-calibrated equipment, sound-treated test environment and systematic record management it requires means great demand for time, manpower and resources.
The validity of existing screening apps is dubious. Not only are they without control on the equipment quality and calibration, many are designed by manufacturers to lead users into obtaining rehabilitative devices from particular service providers.
The team has developed and validated a tablet-based automated pure-tone hearing screening test system, equipped with technology for data processing and analytics for greater effectiveness in assessment. An interactive design is also incorporated to maintain the elderly’s attention level for more reliable results. Elderly centres need only a tablet and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to conduct the test, which is low-cost and highly efficient. Early referrals for rehabilitation can then be directly made for those identified with significant hearing loss. The team also conduct public talks for the elderly community, and has published a pamphlet on “communication tips for elderly with hearing impairment”.
The general public may promptly receive a hearing screening test, and take the advantage of early identification and early intervention. An increase in awareness on the negative effects of hearing loss, as well as the importance of early detection and rehabilitation is expected. The project also enables elderly citizens with hearing loss to regain the ability and motivation to communicate with their family and friends.
The project team is liaising with the Hospital Authority to adopt the proposed screening protocol. This will not only increase the service capacity and allow more elderly to receive timely hearing screening, but also significantly reduce the waiting time for stable new case bookings for elderly hearing assessment through the out-patient clinics.
– 2700 elderly people > 60 years of age
– 5400 family members and/or caregivers
– 540 elderly centre staff
Iris is the chief in Division of Audiology under her Department, a member of the Register of Audiologists accredited by the Department of Health, a Fellow at the Hong Kong Society of Audiology, as well as a member of the Audiology Australia. A seasoned clinical audiologist with ample experience in psychometrics, she has worked for over 10 years in the development and validation of hearing assessment tools. Iris received her BSSc in Psychology and her PhD degree from CUHK. She obtained her professional degree of Master in Audiology from HKU.
Kammy is a Professional Consultant at CUHK and a Fellow at the Hong Kong Society of Audiology, on top of serving an honorary position at the Hospital Authority. She is experienced in the clinical field of hearing assessment and elderly services. Kammy earned her Doctorate in Audiology from the Central Michigan University.