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Communication Outcomes in Audiologic Reporting

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Audiologists often work collaboratively with other health professionals—particularly otolaryngology providers. Some form of written reporting of audiologic outcomes is typically the vehicle by which communication among providers occurs. Quality patient care is dependent on both accurate interpretation of outcomes and effectiveness of communication between providers. Audiologic reporting protocols tend to vary among clinics and providers, with most methods being based on preference rather than standardized definitions.


As part of an ongoing quality-improvement program, audiologic communication was reviewed by comparing written audiometric reports to descriptions of the audiometric results dictated by otolaryngology providers to evaluate the agreement of communication between provider groups.

Research Design:

Retrospective chart review.

Study Sample:

The study sample consisted of 6000 randomly selected charts from a total of 15,625 for the years 2004 and 2008 in the electronic medical record system of a large academic health-care system.

Data Collection and Analysis:

Audiogram reports and associated otolaryngology reports were reviewed by an audiologist and two audiology doctoral students. Communication occurred among 37 audiology providers and 39 otolaryngology providers. Data collected included rating of congruence or incongruence between reports, normal versus abnormal audiologic outcomes, and the nature of communication disparities. Data also included provider type (audiologist, audiology doctoral student, or trainee in clinical fellowship year [CFY]; otolaryngologist, otolaryngology resident, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner).


Incongruent results were higher among the sample of audiologic evaluations with abnormal outcomes (29.2%) compared with normal outcomes (9.5%). Of those cases rated as incongruent, differences in reporting audiometric results stemmed largely from variance in reporting of numerical values from the audiogram (20%), apparent dictation errors (10.1%), and communication of the ear tested (8.6%). Of those cases in which the interpretations of audiology providers differed from those of otolaryngology providers, incongruent results occurred in the interpretation of degree (29.4%), tympanometric results (28.2%), type of hearing loss (12.8%), acoustic reflex results (4.0%), symmetry (3.3%), and other domains (4.2%). Rates of incongruent results were similar regardless of experience level of the audiology provider (audiologist or audiology doctoral student/CFY) but differed depending on the educational background and experience of the otolaryngology provider. The highest incongruent interpretations were found among residents (32.5%), followed by otolaryngologists (25.2%) and physician assistants and nurse practitioners (21%).


This study highlights the need for audiologists to critically evaluate the effectiveness of their communication with other health-care providers and demonstrates the need for evidence-based approaches for interpreting audiologic information and reporting audiologic information to others.
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Keywords: Audiogram; audiology; communication; observer variation; otolaryngology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit 2: Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Iowa, Iowa City 3: Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Wayne State University, Detroit

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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