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Lancet. 2002 Apr 27;359(9316):1466-70.

Reduced hearing, ownership, and use of hearing aids in elderly people in the UK--the MRC Trial of the Assessment and Management of Older People in the Community: a cross-sectional survey.

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Centre for Ageing and Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.



Reduced hearing in elderly people is important because it is disabling and potentially treatable. We aimed to assess the prevalence of reduced hearing in elderly people and levels of ownership of hearing aids and use.


We have done a cross-sectional survey of people aged at least 75 years in 106 family practices in the UK. We obtained self-reported data on hearing difficulties for 32,656 people and gave 14,877 a whispered voice test (response rate 78%).


2537 (8%) of 32,656 participants reported a lot of difficulty hearing and 13,630 (42%) a little or a lot of difficulty. 3795 (26%) of 14877 participants who completed the whispered voice test (95% CI 23-29) failed the test, the proportion rising sharply with age. Following wax removal, 343 passed a retest, leaving 3452 (23%, 20-26) who failed the test, even after wax removal if present. 998 (46%) of 2180 people wearing a hearing aid at the time of testing failed the whispered voice test. More than half the people who failed the test did not own a hearing aid. 2200 (60%) of 3846 people who owned a hearing aid said they used it regularly. Level of use was strongly related to perceived benefit.


Reduced hearing is common and provision of hearing aids inadequate in elderly people. Many people who own a hearing aid do not use it regularly, and even when wearing their aid many still have socially disabling levels of hearing loss. A major source of morbidity in elderly people could be alleviated by improvements in detection and management of reduced hearing.

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