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Use of Hearing Aids and Assistive Listening Devices in an Older Australian Population

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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.
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Keywords: Aging; Blue Mountains Hearing Study; assistive listening device; hearing aids; hearing loss; prevalence studies; self-reported handicap

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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