Background: Hearing loss is a common sensory impairment experienced by older persons. Evidence shows that the use of hearing aids and/or assistive listening devices (ALDs) can benefit those with a hearing loss but that historically the uptake and use of these technologies has remained relatively low compared with the number of people who report a hearing loss.
Purpose: The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence, usage, and factors associated with the use of hearing aids and ALDs in an older representative Australian population.
Research design: A population-based survey.
Study sample: A total of 2956 persons out of 3914 eligible people between the ages of 49 and 99 yr (mean age 67.4 yr), living in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, completed a hearing study conducted from 1997 to 2003.
Data collection and analysis: Hearing levels were assessed using pure tone audiometry, and subjects were administered a comprehensive hearing survey by audiologists, which included questions about hearing aid and ALD usage. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors associated with hearing aid and ALD usage.
Results: Of the surveyed population, 33% had a hearing loss as measured in the better ear. 4.4% had used an ALD in the past 12 mo, and 11% owned a hearing aid. Of current hearing aid owners, 24% never used their aids. ALD and hearing aid usage were found to be associated with increasing age, hearing loss, and self-perceived hearing disability.
Conclusions: These results indicate that hearing aid ownership and ALD usage remains low in the older population. Given the significant proportion of older people who self-report and have a measured hearing loss, it is possible that more could be helped through the increased use of hearing aid and/or ALD technology. Greater efforts are needed to promote the benefits of these technologies and to support their use among older people with hearing loss.
American Academy of Audiology.