Journal of Community Health

, Volume 36, Issue 5, pp 748–755 | Cite as

Hearing Loss and Older Adults’ Perceptions of Access to Care

  • Nancy Pandhi
  • Jessica R. Schumacher
  • Steven Barnett
  • Maureen A. Smith
Original Paper


We investigated whether hard-of-hearing older adults were more likely to report difficulties and delays in accessing care and decreased satisfaction with healthcare access than those without hearing loss. The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (2003–2006 wave, N = 6,524) surveyed respondents regarding hearing, difficulties/delays in accessing care, satisfaction with healthcare access, socio-demographics, chronic conditions, self-rated health, depression, and length of relationship with provider/site. We used multivariate regression to compare access difficulties/delays and satisfaction by respondents’ hearing status (hard-of-hearing or not). Hard-of-hearing individuals comprised 18% of the sample. Compared to those not hard-of-hearing, hard-of-hearing individuals were significantly more likely to be older, male and separated/divorced. They had a higher mean number of chronic conditions, including atherosclerotic vascular disease, diabetes and depression. After adjustment for potential confounders, hard-of-hearing individuals were more likely to report difficulties in accessing healthcare (Odds Ratio 1.85; 95% Confidence Interval 1.19–2.88). Satisfaction with healthcare access was similar in both groups. Our findings suggest healthcare access difficulties will be heightened for more of the population because of the increasing prevalence of hearing loss. The prevalence of hearing loss in this data is low and our findings from a telephone survey likely underestimate the magnitude of access difficulties experienced by hard-of-hearing older adults. Further research which incorporates accessible surveys is needed. In the meantime, clinicians should pay particular attention to assessing barriers in healthcare access for hard-of-hearing individuals. Resources should be made available to proactively address these issues for those who are hard-of-hearing and to educate providers about the specific needs of this population.


Hearing loss Healthcare access Older adults Presbycusis 



We acknowledge that this project was supported by the Community-Academic Partnerships core of the University of Wisconsin Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (UW ICTR) funded through an NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), grant number 1 UL1 RR025011. In addition, Nancy Pandhi is supported by a National Institute on Aging Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award, grant number l K08 AG029527. Steven Barnett is supported by grant K08 HS15700 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). This research uses data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since 1991, the WLS has been supported principally by the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG09775, R01 AG033285), with additional support from the Vilas Estate Trust, the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A public use file of data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study is available from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1180 Observatory Drive, Madison, Wisconsin, 53706 and at The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy Pandhi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jessica R. Schumacher
    • 3
  • Steven Barnett
    • 4
  • Maureen A. Smith
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Family MedicineUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Population Health SciencesUniversity of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public HealthMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Health Services Research, Management, and PolicyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of Family Medicine and Community and Preventive MedicineUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA

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