Several models of health behavior change are commonly used in health psychology. This study applied the constructs delineated by two models—the transtheoretical model (in which readiness for health behavior change can be described with the stages of precontemplation, contemplation and action) and the health belief model (in which susceptibility, severity, benefits, barriers, self-efficacy, and cues to action are thought to determine likelihood of health behavior change)—to adults seeking hearing help for the first time.
One hundred eighty-two participants (mean age: 69.5 years) were recruited following an initial hearing assessment by an audiologist. Participants’ mean four-frequency pure-tone average was 35.4 dB HL, with 25.8% having no hearing impairment, 50.5% having a slight impairment, and 23.1% having a moderate or severe impairment using the World Health Organization definition of hearing loss. Participants’ hearing-related attitudes and beliefs toward hearing health behaviors were examined using the University of Rhode Island Change Assessment (URICA) and the health beliefs questionnaire (HBQ), which assess the constructs of the transtheoretical model and the health belief model, respectively. Participants also provided demographic information, and completed the hearing handicap inventory (HHI) to assess participation restrictions, and the psychosocial impact of hearing loss (PIHL) to assess the extent to which hearing impacts competence, self-esteem, and adaptability.
Degree of hearing impairment was associated with participation restrictions, perceived competence, self-esteem and adaptability, and attitudes and beliefs measured by the URICA and the HBQ. As degree of impairment increased, participation restrictions measured by the HHI, and impacts of hearing loss, as measured by the PIHL, increased. The majority of first-time help seekers in this study were in the action stage of change. Furthermore, relative to individuals with less hearing impairment, individuals with more hearing impairment were at more advanced stages of change as measured by the URICA (i.e., higher contemplation and action scores relative to their precontemplation score), and they perceived fewer barriers and more susceptibility, severity, benefits and cues to action as measured by the HBQ. Multiple regression analyses showed participation restrictions (HHI scores) to be a highly significant predictor of stages of change explaining 30% to 37% of the variance, as were duration of hearing difficulty, and perceived benefits, severity, self-efficacy and cues to action assessed by the HBQ.
The main predictors of stages of change in first-time help seekers were reported participation restrictions and duration of hearing difficulty, with constructs from the health belief model also explaining some of the variance in stages of change scores. The transtheoretical model and the health belief model are valuable for understanding hearing health behaviors and can be applied when developing interventions to promote help seeking.