Biopsychosocial classification of hearing health seeking in adults aged over 50 years in England

Chelsea S. Sawyer, Christopher J. Armitage, Kevin J. Munro, Gurjit Singh, Piers Dawes

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Objectives: Approximately 10 to 35% of people with a hearing impairment own a hearing aid. The present study aims to identify barriers to obtaining a hearing aid and inform future interventions by examining the biopsychosocial characteristics of adults aged 50+ according to 7 categories: (i) Did not report hearing difficulties, (ii) Reported hearing difficulties, (iii) Told a healthcare professional about experiencing hearing difficulties, (iv) Referred for a hearing assessment, (v) Offered a hearing aid, (vi) Accepted a hearing aid, and (vii) Reported using a hearing aid regularly.Design: The research was conducted using the English Longitudinal Study of Aging wave 7 with data obtained from 9666 adults living in England from June 2014 to May 2015. Cross-sectional data were obtained from a subset of 2845 participants aged 50 to 89 years of age with a probable hearing impairment measured by hearing screening (indicating a hearing threshold of >20 dB HL at 1 kHz or >35 dB HL at 3 kHz in the better ear). Classification according to hearing health-seeking category was via participants’ self-report. Participants in each category were compared with people in all subsequent categories to examine the associations between each category and biopsychosocial correlates (sex, age, ethnicity, educational level, wealth, audiometric hearing level, self-reported health status, cognitive performance, attitudes to aging, living alone, and engagement in social activities) using multiple logistic regression.Results: The proportions of individuals (N = 2845) in categories i to vii were 40.0% (n = 1139), 14.0% (n = 396), 4.5% (n = 129), 4.0% (n = 114), 1.2% (n = 34), 7.7% (n = 220), and 28.6% (n = 813), respectively. Severity of hearing impairment was the only factor predictive of all the categories of hearing health-seeking that could be modeled. Other correlates predictive of at least one category of hearing health-seeking included sex, age, self-reported heath, participation in social activities, and cognitive function.Conclusions: For the first time, it was shown that 40.0% of people with an audiometrically identified probable hearing impairment did not report hearing difficulties. Each of the five categories of hearing health-seeking that could be modeled had different drivers and consequently, interventions likely should vary depending on the category of hearing health-seeking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1215-1225
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number5
Early online date24 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • hearing aid
  • hearing impairment
  • help-seeking
  • referral
  • uptake
  • use
  • utilization


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