Objectives: Hearing impairment constitutes a highly prevalent chronic health condition among older adults worldwide which negatively impacts on communication and health-related quality of life. Irrespective of this, the majority of older adults do not seek professional help for hearing impairment and/or do not obtain hearing aids. Therefore, a new approach for detecting and promoting help-seeking for hearing impairment is needed. The purpose of this study was to investigate the actions taken by those who failed Telscreen, a telephone-based screening tool for hearing loss, and to increase our understanding of factors that influence taking action.
Design: A cohort of 193 participants (112 females, 81 males; age range 24-93 yr) who had failed Telscreen participated in a follow-up telephone interview 4 to 5 mo later. Participants were asked why they called Telscreen, about their hearing ability, their Telscreen result, and what action they had taken toward hearing rehabilitation. One outcome measure was identified: decision to seek professional help for hearing impairment (yes/no). Given that the outcome measure was dichotomized, a logistic regression model for binary outcomes was fitted to the data.
Results: Of the 193 participants who failed Telscreen, only 36% sought help from a range of sources (e.g., audiologist, hearing service or hearing aid provider, and family doctor). Results of the logistic regression analysis indicated that individuals who had considered hearing aids before calling Telscreen and/or who recalled their Telscreen result were significantly more likely to seek professional help for their hearing impairment. Nineteen participants who sought help for their hearing impairment had hearing aid fitting recommended to them. Eight participants had aid/s fitted, and of these, six reported a successful outcome.
Conclusions: For every 100 individuals who fail a hearing screening, only 36 seek help. Of these 36 individuals who take some action, 13 are recommended hearing aids, approximately half of whom follow this advice and obtain hearing aids. Approximately three-quarters of these individuals use and value their hearing aids. Provided that the screening is automated and low cost, hearing screening via telephone has proven to change the lives of 5% of individuals who decided to seek professional help for hearing impairment at little cost to the other 95% of individuals. Suggestions for future research based on the present research findings are discussed.