Low Hearing Aid Uptake Focus of Recent Public Health Report

Cost continues to be one of the key barriers to hearing aid acquisition according to a new report published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH). Citing several sources, chief among them a 2011 population-based, longitudinal study that found only one-third of adults with hearing loss acquired hearing aids, Jan Blustein & Barbara Weinstein contrasted the burden of disability stemming from age-related hearing loss with the low prevalence of hearing aid ownership among older Americans.

A primary focus of the article, published on-line in mid-April, was that cost is a significant barrier to hearing aid ownership. Along with a detailed commentary of the reasons for the high costs associated with hearing aids, the April 14th report provides readers of AJPH with summary of the PCAST’s recommended changes to how hearing aids and its associated care should be regulated by the FDA and FTC.

Although Blustein & Weinstein indicate that cost is a leading barrier to low hearing aid ownership, they do report on several other non-financial uptake barriers, among them stigma, acquaintance with someone with a negative experience with hearing aids and patient perceptions that hearing aids are not needed. Their commentary echoes the findings of the 2011 AJPH article, authored by several University of Wisconsin researchers, whose reasons for not acquiring hearing aids are summarized below in Table 1.

 

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In their study, Fischer, et al followed more than 700 adults for a 10 year period. Study participants were evaluated in five year increments and the most frequently cited reasons for not acquiring hearing aid are shown in Table 1 at five and ten year intervals.

In addition to cost, “not needing it,” poor experience of others, and inconvenient to wear were reported by the study participants to be the leading reasons for non-use.

 

 

References

Blustein, J.  & Weinstein, B.E.  (2016). Opening the Market for Lower Cost Hearing Aids: Regulatory Change Can Improve the Health of Older Americans. American Journal of Public Health. e-View Ahead of Print.doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303176

Fischer ME, Cruickshanks KJ, WileyTL, et al. (2001) Determinants of hearing aid acquisition in older adults. Am J Public Health. 101, 8, 1449–1455.

 

About the American Journal of Public Health

AJPH, first published in 1911, is the official Journal of the American Public Health Association, and, according to its website the journal ranked #5 of 145 titles in the Public, Environmental and Occupational Health category in the Social Sciences Citation Index, a database that archives more  2,400 of the world’s leading peer reviewed scientific journals across more than 50 disciplines .