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Socioeconomic Factors Linked to Hearing Aid Access, Use

MONDAY, July 2, 2018 — Socioeconomic factors may hinder individuals’ ability to obtain and use hearing aids, according to a study published online May 21 in The Gerontologist.

Michael M. McKee, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues conducted an explanatory sequential mixed-methods study involving a secondary analysis of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which involved 35,572 individuals. They also conducted one-on-one qualitative interviews with 21 community participants. The individuals in both samples were ≥55 years and had self-reported hearing loss.

The researchers found, based on analysis of HRS data, that younger, nonwhite, non-Hispanic, lower-income, and less-educated individuals were significantly less likely to use hearing aids. Hearing aid use was not significantly associated with area of residence (e.g., urban). Based on the interviews, barriers to hearing aid use included cost, stigma, vanity, and a general low priority placed on addressing hearing loss by health care providers, whereas family/friend support, knowledge, and adequate insurance coverage for hearing aids were facilitators to obtaining and using them.

“Many socioeconomic factors hinder individuals’ ability to obtain and use hearing aids, but these obstacles appeared to be mitigated in part when insurance plans provided adequate hearing aid coverage, or when their family/friends provided encouragement to use hearing aids,” conclude the authors.

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Posted: July 2018

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