Help-Seeking Behavior and Social Engagement Among Older Adults With Hearing Impairment

Monday, 30 October 2017

Mary Dioise Ramos, MAN
Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing and Health Professions, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, USA

Hearing impairment is one of the most common issues that older adults’ experience. There are an estimated 360 million people who have moderate to profound hearing impairment in the entire world (World Health Organization, 2015). According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD, 2016) Epidemiology and Statistics Program using the data from 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) about 2% of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing impairment, and the rate increases to 8.5% for 55 to 64 years old. The incidence of hearing impairment tripled for those 65 to 74 years of age and continued to rise at approximately 50% for those 75 and older.

Despite the efforts to improve delivery of care for people with hearing impairment, and negative health outcomes experienced by hearing impaired individuals, the Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC, 2015) estimated that 15 million people in the United States with hearing impairment avoid seeking help. Many older adults do not engage in seeking help or delay seeking assistance for over five years (NIDCD, 2010). Despite the fact that hearing impairment affects the lives of older adults, there is often a lengthy delay between the time individuals’ first notice that they are having hearing difficulties and when they seek help from a hearing professional.

Many older adults with hearing impairment have low levels of confidence in their ability to seek professional help. Despite the growing literature about self-efficacy in health promoting behaviors, research on hearing impairment has not adequately described the causality of self-efficacy and social engagement in hearing impairment among older adults. Further investigation is needed to address the connection between self-efficacy in health-seeking behaviors of older adults and social engagement in older adults with hearing impairment.

The purpose of this study is to examine the factors that are thought to influence the help-seeking intentions and seeking professional help of older adults with hearing impairment. This study will also determine the association between social engagement and self-efficacy in seeking help among older adults with hearing impairment.

A prospective correlational design was used to examine the factors that are associated with help-seeking intentions and seeking professional help about hearing impairment among older adults with hearing problem. Standard questionnaires were administered at two-time points. Time 1 (T1) was the initial collection of data in person using a set of self-report questionnaires. The participants were contacted via telephone at eight weeks, Time 2 (T2) after the initial interview to determine if they sought help for hearing impairment.

There likely are various factors that influence the health-seeking behavior of older adults with hearing impairment beyond financial reason. The factors include: attitudes and knowledge towards hearing impairment, stigma about hearing impairment, self-efficacy in seeking help, and behavioral intention in seeking help about hearing impairment. Social engagement is likely associated with self-efficacy in seeking help among older adults with hearing impairment.

Understanding the various factors related to why such a large proportion of hearing impaired older adults do not seek professional help or consultation is needed so that appropriate screening and assessment programs can be culturally tailored or modified accordingly to the needs of this vulnerable population.