New Computer-based Screening Tool Helps Individuals Make Informed Decisions on Hearing Care

Brian Taylor
October 10, 2018

One formidable challenge associated with the rapidly aging baby-boomer population is accurately screening for (and referring to physicians) infrequent, but potentially catastrophic cases of ear disease from the highly prevalent condition of benign hearing loss. The challenge is particularly vexing because of the bottleneck that exists for older adults to undergo a hearing test or medical evaluation prior to the purchase of hearing aids. There are, after all, a growing number of older adults in possible need of the disease screening process and a relative shortage of licensed professionals, including otolaryngologists, audiologists and hearing instrument specialists.

To address this bottleneck and help adults with hearing loss make an informed decision about their care, researchers have developed a computer-based questionnaire that determines risk for ear disease. Developed by a team of multidiscipline researchers, representing several institutions, the Consumer Ear Disease Risk Assessment (CEDRA) is now available for use by consumers at this website. In addition to an automated, computer-based questionnaire that can be completed in a few minutes, there is a print-friendly PDF version that can be downloaded.


The Consumer Ear Disease Risk Assessment


Primary investigators Sumit Dhar of Northwestern University and David Zapala of Mayo Clinic of Jacksonville, Florida, along with a team of eight others, developed and validated the tool with an NIH grant. The following published peer review research supports its effectiveness as a screening tool: Identifying and Prioritizing Diseases Important for Detection in Adult Hearing Health Care and Development and Initial Validation of a Consumer Questionnaire to Predict the Presence of Ear Disease.

According to the website that hosts CEDRA, the researchers prioritized list of 104 ear-related diseases that were targeted during the development of the CEDRA questionnaire. Questions were initially developed by expert clinicians, and refined over a series of interviews with patient-participants.

The refined version of CEDRA was then tested with 307 participants from the Mayo Clinic, Florida. Two hundred thirty-one of those participants had one or more of the targeted diseases, 76 had age- or noise-related hearing trouble.

Statistical analyses indicated that scoring 15 of the CEDRA questions would yield a good estimate of the disease risk of the participants, with overall accuracy at 85%.

Although the website clearly states CEDRA is provided for informational purposes and should not be used as a substitute for medical consultation and advice, given the burgeoning OTC hearing aid market, CEDRA could be a welcome addition for patients wanting to self-direct their care in a more informed manner.

In addition to the consumer questionnaire, the research team is developing a standardized disease risk assessment tool for non-physician hearing healthcare providers, called Professional Ear Disease Risk Analytics (PEDRA).


Source: CEDRA, Northwestern, Mayo Clinic

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