Examining Motivation for Hearing Health Care in those with Self-Reported Hearing Problems and Hearing Thresholds within Normal Limits
At one point or another, you've likely seen a patient in your clinical practice who has reported substantial hearing difficulties but whose traditional audiometric test results are essentially within normal limits. When considering next steps and/or rehabilitation options for these individuals, have you been curious how motivated such individuals are for hearing health-care services? Is it any different than your patients who have had a measurable pure-tone hearing loss? Alicea and Doherty (2017) recently examined this question, as well as potential factors that might be associated with motivation for hearing health-care intervention services.
Specifically, motivation for change was assessed in four subject groups: (1) older adults with normal hearing and self-reported hearing difficulties; (2) older adults with normal hearing and no self-reported hearing difficulties; (3) older adults with mild-to-moderate sensorineural hearing loss and self-reported hearing difficulties; and (4) younger (22–26 years) adults with normal hearing and no self-reported hearing difficulties. There were 14 subjects in each group. The subjects in the older adult groups ranged in age from 54–68 years. Normal hearing was defined at no audiometric threshold poorer than 25 dB HL from 250–4000 Hz. Potential associated factors that were assessed included hearing handicap, attitude regarding hearing loss and hearing aids, extended high-frequency audiometry, speech perception in noise, and working memory in noise.
Not surprisingly, results indicated that the two groups of subjects with self-reported hearing problems (regardless of audiometric thresholds) reported significantly more hearing handicap and higher motivation towards change than either of the two groups without self-reported difficulties. There were no significant differences between these two subject groups. Factors that were significantly associated with motivation towards change for both of these groups were subjective and related to hearing handicap and attitudes towards hearing loss. Attitude toward hearing aids and hearing threshold levels were additional associated factors for the group with a sensorineural hearing loss.
Conclusion: These results suggest that patients who present to your clinic with self-reported hearing difficulties but who have audiometric thresholds essentially within normal limits may be just as interested in hearing health-care intervention services as your patients with a measurable hearing loss.
Alicea C, Doherty K. (2017) Motivation to address self-reported hearing problems in adults with normal hearing thresholds. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 60:3642–3655.