Hearing Disability Measured by the Speech, Spatial, and Qualities of Hearing Scale in Clinically Normal-Hearing and Hearing-Impaired Middle-Aged Persons, and Disability Screening by Means of a Reduced SSQ (the SSQ5).
: The goals of the present study were twofold: in the first part, the prevalence and profile of hearing disability in healthy, middle-aged persons were determined by the speech, spatial, and qualities of hearing scale (SSQ). In the second part of this study, the number of SSQ items was reduced to five to make this questionnaire available for routine usage in clinical settings and for screening purposes. : SSQ responses derived from 103 normal-hearing 18- to 25-year-old persons were compared with the SSQ responses of 24 clinically normal-hearing (all thresholds between 125 and 8000 Hz ≤25 dB HL) and 109 healthy, 55- to 65-year-old persons with age-related hearing impairment to determine the prevalence and profile of hearing disability. The 45 items of the SSQ were reduced to five by cluster analyses and binary logistic regression analyses. The robustness of this five-item version (SSQ5) was determined in three control populations: an adult 25- to 55-year-old population (n = 159), an ENT-patient population (n = 60), and a population of hearing aid candidates (n = 50). The feasibility of the SSQ5 for screening was compared with the feasibility of the simple question "Do you have hearing loss?" by determining, respectively, the sensitivity, specificity, and maximum achievable discriminatory power for predicting hearing status according to speech-in-noise performance. : Prevalence numbers showed data of healthy, middle-aged persons with significant disability, despite minimal impairment (25%) versus data of middle-aged persons with significant impairment and nevertheless, minimal disability (61%). The profile of hearing disability seemed similar in all normal-hearing and hearing-impaired subgroups (i.e., most problems with understanding speech especially in noise conditions, and least problems with sound quality). Compared with the single question: "Do you have hearing loss?" the use of the SSQ5 had 37% more maximum discriminatory power for determining hearing status category based on speech-in-noise performance in 55- to 65-year-old persons. In addition, the SSQ5 seemed robust in adult populations of different ages (89.6% correlation between the answers of the SSQ5 and SSQ45), as well as in ENT-patient populations (93.7% correlation) and hearing aid candidate populations (79.2% correlation). : The results of this study suggest that disability measures and measures for hearing impairment cannot replace each other, but are complementary. Therefore, it is advised to implement both disability measures and impairment measures in screening and referral policies for hearing loss. To get a first impression of hearing disability, our results suggest that it is useful to ask five disability questions (SSQ5) instead of one general question like "Do you have hearing loss?"