The Baltimore HEARS Pilot Study: An Affordable, Accessible, Community-Delivered Hearing Care Intervention

Gerontologist. 2017 Nov 10;57(6):1173-1186. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnw153.


Purpose of the study: Age-related hearing loss negatively affects health outcomes, yet disparities in hearing care, such as hearing aid use, exist based on race/ethnicity and socioeconomic position. Recent national efforts highlight reduction of hearing care disparities as a public health imperative. This study a) describes a community engagement approach to addressing disparities, b) reports preliminary outcomes of a novel intervention, and c) discusses implementation processes and potential for wide-scale testing and use.

Design and methods: This was a prospective, randomized control pilot, with a 3-month delayed treatment group as a waitlist control, that assessed feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a community-delivered, affordable, and accessible intervention for older adults with hearing loss. Outcomes were assessed at 3 months, comparing immediate and delayed groups, and pooled to compare the cohort's pre- and 3-month post-intervention results.

Results: All participants completed the study (n = 15). The program was highly acceptable: 93% benefited, 100% would recommend the program, and 67% wanted to serve as future program trainers. At 3 months, the treated group (n = 8) experienced fewer social and emotional effects of hearing loss and fewer depressive symptoms as compared to the delayed treatment group (n = 7). Pooling 3-month post-intervention scores (n = 15), participants reported fewer negative hearing-related effects (effect size = -0.96) and reduced depressive symptoms (effect size = -0.43).

Implications: The HEARS (Hearing Equality through Accessible Research & Solutions) intervention is feasible, acceptable, low risk, and demonstrates preliminary efficacy. HEARS offers a novel, low-cost, and readily scalable solution to reduce hearing care disparities and highlights how a community-engaged approach to intervention development can address disparities.

Keywords: Age-related hearing loss; Community engagement; Disparities; Hearing health care; Hearing loss; Implementation; Intervention development; Minority health.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Baltimore
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Healthcare Disparities / organization & administration
  • Hearing Aids / supply & distribution*
  • Hearing Loss* / diagnosis
  • Hearing Loss* / etiology
  • Hearing Loss* / psychology
  • Hearing Loss* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life*
  • Time-to-Treatment