We report the results of a survey designed to investigate audiologic referral patterns of primary care physicians and, more specifically, their referral of patients for hearing aids and cochlear implants. Three hundred internal medicine and family medicine physicians were identified from a referral basin of a tertiary care center and chosen randomly to be faxed questionnaires concerning their views about patients with hearing loss, hearing loss screening and referral practices, and availability of local resources. Of the 260 physicians who received a questionnaire, 85 (32.7%) responded. Of their communities (60% of which had populations of fewer than 50,000), 82.4% had an otolaryngologist and 40% had access to an academic center. Although 97.6% of the responding physicians indicated that hearing loss affected patients' quality of life, only 60% assessed patients for hearing loss. "Lack of time" and "more pressing issues" were the most common reasons given for not evaluating patients for hearing loss. Although 76 physicians (89.4%) said they were aware of cochlear implants, only 22 (25.9%) had referred patients for implant evaluation. Lack of referral most commonly resulted from uncertainties about "where to refer" and "which patients were potential candidates." The results of this survey suggest that a large percentage of primary care physicians do not routinely test for hearing impairment in adults.
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