Health disparities in pediatric cochlear implantation: an audiologic perspective

Ear Hear. 2009 Oct;30(5):515-25. doi: 10.1097/AUD.0b013e3181aec5e0.


Objectives: A national survey of pediatric cochlear implantation (PCI) audiologists was conducted with three aims: (1) to determine if PCI audiologists perceive within their clinical practice a negative effect of low socioeconomic status (SES) on postimplant speech and language outcomes; (2) to understand their perceptions of the underlying factors leading to outcome disparities; and (3) to elicit suggestions for improving outcomes in disadvantaged populations. We hypothesized that audiologists would perceive reduced speech and language outcomes within their lower SES patient population, and that this noted disparity would be related to parental adherence (compliance) and access to habilitation.

Design: A survey containing 22 quantitative and open-ended questions was electronically mailed to a data base of 234 PCI audiologists. Forty-four percent (N = 103 of 234) responded to the survey, with the majority (98 of 103) answering all questions. Quantitative responses were analyzed using the Stata 9 statistical package with significance at p < 0.05. Qualitative responses were analyzed using standardized codebook and content analysis. Transcripts were read and coded for the main ideas expressed in each response. The codes were then analyzed for patterns and organized into subthemes that were then grouped into themes.

Results: Seventy-eight percent (N = 76 of 98) of respondents perceived an effect of SES on postimplant speech and language outcomes. Qualitative responses uniformly demonstrated audiologists' perception that lower SES patient populations were more likely to experience reduced speech and language outcomes. Two major themes emerged in audiologists' explanations of SES-related disparities: internal factors of parental influence (i.e., parental self-efficacy, adherence, and habilitation carryover), and external factors (i.e., inadequate therapy and lack of available resources). Three primary suggestions were offered for reducing the disparity: improvement in cochlear implant services (92%), increased emphasis on parental education and intervention (87%), and the development of stricter candidacy requirements (15%).

Conclusions: This study offers evidence to show that PCI audiologists note an SES-related disparity in the field of PCI. Respondents suggest the need for a broad and culturally sensitive effort to both increase access to qualified healthcare professionals and develop approaches that will aid parents in the at-home habilitation process.

MeSH terms

  • Audiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cochlear Implantation*
  • Data Collection
  • Deafness / rehabilitation*
  • Education
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Language Development Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Male
  • Patient Compliance
  • Self Efficacy
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome