Objectives: To measure the prevalence of hearing aid use among older adults with hearing loss and to identify factors associated with those currently using hearing aids.
Design: Population-based cohort study.
Setting: The south-central Wisconsin community of Beaver Dam.
Participants: A total of 1629 adults, aged 48 to 92 years, who have hearing loss and are participating in the Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study and the Beaver Dam Eye Study.
Measurements: A hearing-related risk factor and medical history questionnaire, the Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly (screening version), screening tympanometry, pure-tone air- and bone-conduction audiometry, and word recognition tests were administered by trained examiners using standard protocols.
Results: The prevalence of current hearing aid use among those with a hearing loss (pure-tone average > 25 decibels hearing level over 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hertz, worse ear) was 14.6%. The prevalence was 55% in a subset of the most severely affected participants. In univariate analyses, current hearing aid use was associated with age, severity of loss, word recognition scores, self-reported hearing loss, self-perceived hearing handicap, and history of noise exposure. Factors associated with current hearing aid use in multivariate logistic regression models were age, severity of loss, education, word recognition scores, Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly (screening version) score, and self-report of a hearing loss.
Conclusions: Few older adults with hearing loss are currently utilizing hearing aids. Improved screening and intervention programs to identify older adults who would benefit from amplification are needed to improve hearing-related quality of life for this large segment of the population.