A hearing screening device is being given to several medical clinics in American Fork in hopes that the device will help physicians routinely identify hearing problems.

The device, called an audioscope, can be used to visually inspect the external ear and drum. It also is capable of emitting four pitches at various sound levels to test hearing.Hearing loss can occur at any age and for a variety of reasons, but it is one of the top three health problems in the "graying" population, according to Kim B. Leishman, audiologist at American Fork Hospital.

"Our more mature population is rapidly increasing in number, and according to national and local health surveys, 30 percent to 40 percent of those over 60 years of age have significant hearing loss," Leishman said.

But, according to National Institute of Health figures, only 17 percent to 23 percent of those with hearing problems are getting the help they need, Leishman said.

"They may not realize they have had a hearing loss," Leishman said. "Or they may be reluctant about getting a hearing device. Hearing aids are visible, but so are eyeglasses."

Leishman said that if a doctor is able to pick up a hearing problem during a routine physical exam and bring it to the attention of the patient, the patient may be more apt to seek specialized help in correcting the problem.

Leishman, along with audiologist Susannah Ungricht, is working with local doctors to implement the pilot program, which is being sponsored by the American Fork Hospital Speech and Hearing Center. The hearing center at American Fork Hospital provides state-of-the-art evaluation and rehabilitation services, including audiological testing, counseling, hearing aid evaluation, selection and fitting. The center also provides aural habilitation services such as instruction in lip reading, speaker-listener positioning and offers devices like door bell amplifiers, pocket talkers, etc., to enhance sound.