To elucidate the impact of hearing loss on patient health literacy.
Prospective, cross-sectional study.
Academic otology practice at a university hospital.
Consecutive, adult, English-speaking patients.
Main Outcome Measures:
Inadequate health literacy, defined as a composite score of less than or equal to nine on the brief health literacy screen (BHLS), was compared with patient hearing data utilizing the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) hearing classification. Secondary outcome measures included comparisons of inadequate BHLS scores according to patient demographic and clinical information.
There were 300 consecutive adult (>18 years old) patients evaluated with the BHLS at a university otology practice between February and March 2019. The median patient age was 60-years (range, 18–91 yr), a slight majority (160, 53.3%) were women, and most patients were White (241, 86.7%) and non-Hispanic (260, 91.6%). Overall, 9.7% of patients were found to have inadequate health literacy. Men had higher rates of inadequate health literacy as compared with women (13.6% versus 6.3%, odds ratio [OR] = 2.35, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.06–5.25). Audiometric data was available for 284 (95%) patients, of which 235 (82.7%) had class A or B hearing and 49 (17.3%) had class C or D hearing. Patients with Class C or D hearing had a lower median composite BHLS score compared with patients with Class A or B hearing (11.6 versus 13.6, p < 0.0001) and an increased rate of inadequate health literacy (28.6% versus 4.7%, OR = 8.15, 95% CI 3.42–19.37). Increased age, female sex, and better hearing were independent predictors of higher BHLS scores on multivariable analysis.
Hearing loss is an independent risk factor for inadequate health literacy. Providers should be aware of this risk and consider implementing strategies to improve counseling for this at-risk group of patients.