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U.S. Media Portrayal of Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids

Beukes, Eldre, PhD; Manchaiah, Vinaya, AuD, MBA, PhD

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000558468.82774.8a
Hearing Health and the Media
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Dr. Beukes, left, is a post-doctoral researcher in the department of speech and hearing sciences at Lamar University in Beaumont, TX, where Dr. Manchaiah is the Jo Mayo Endowed Professor.

To date, hearing health care research has paid little attention to the influence of the media on hearing health care behavior. A recent study by Manchaiah, Ratinaud, and Beukes1 explored how newspapers portray hearing loss and hearing aids. Specifically, this study examined the themes (or patterns) used in newspaper articles published in the United States and how these themes changed over time. Noting the important role of the media in shaping society's perceptions, attitudes, and/or beliefs, this study is an important first step toward identifying the kind of content discussed in newspapers, informing hearing health care professionals on how to better contribute to the public's knowledge of hearing health care.

Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Table 1

Table 1

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STUDY METHOD AND FINDINGS

In this study, a cross-sectional analysis of secondary data generated from publicly available newspaper media data was undertaken. Using the database U.S. Major Dailies by ProQuest, the terms “hearing loss” and “hearing aid(s)” were searched in newspaper articles published from 1990 to 2017. Two separate data sets were generated and analyzed based on text patterns (i.e., cluster analysis and Chi-square analysis) using the open-source IRaMuTeQ software.

We found that most articles about hearing loss were from The Washington Post (26%), U.S. Federal News Service (15%), the Chicago Tribune (14%), and Targeted News Service (13%). Most articles on hearing aids were from the U.S. Federal News Service (50%). Other sources included The Washington Post (8%), the Chicago Tribune (8%), The New York Times (7%), and Targeted News Service (7%).

Time series analysis indicated that the frequency of information about these terms expanded over time (Fig. 1). However, it is not known if this is a result of a general increased interest in these topics, increase in the number of media outlets, or both. The analysis resulted in seven clusters in the hearing loss text corpus and eight clusters in the hearing aid(s) text corpus (Table 1). The Chi-square analysis suggested the clusters that were overrepresented in each year (Table 1). Results suggest that newspapers provide a wide and realistic portrayal of hearing loss and hearing aids. Interestingly, the theme “cognitive hearing science” has been more prevalent in recent years (2012 to 2016) in the hearing loss text corpus, and the theme “signal processing” has gained popularity in the hearing aids text corpus from 2010 to 2016. These observations highlight the trend of topics covered by newspapers that reflect the popular discussions in hearing health care at a certain period.

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IMPLICATIONS FOR HEARING HEALTH PROFESSIONALS

This study stresses the need for hearing health professionals to stay up-to-date with mainstream media and the kind of information about hearing health to which the public is exposed. This is important in educating the public about hearing loss and promoting healthy behaviors regarding early diagnosis and management of hearing loss. Understanding the topics covered by the media will help hearing health care professionals better prepare for possible questions and concerns raised by patients and their family members during clinical consultations. Discussing popular topics that recently received media coverage (e.g., cognitive hearing science or signal processing) may help engage patients and increase the health care provider's credibility from the patient's perspective. Topics discussed in different types of media, including social media, can also promote better communication between patients and hearing care professionals.2 Notably, the influence of other media sources, particularly social media, while not covered in this study, should be considered in future investigations.3 Hearing health professionals should also be more proactive in shaping the information provided in the media to make sure that the public gets accurate and timely information. By working with journalists in developing content, hearing health care professionals have the opportunity to promote healthy hearing beyond the clinic.

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REFERENCES

1. Manchaiah V, Ratinaud P, Beukes EW Representation of hearing loss and hearing aids in the US newspaper media: Cross-sectional analysis of secondary data. Am J Audiol. 2019:1-15.
2. Smailhodzic E, Hooijsma W, Boonstra A, Langley DJ Social media use in healthcare: A systematic review of effects on patients and on their relationship with healthcare professionals. BMC health services research 2016 16 1 442
3. Ventola CL Social media and health care professionals: Benefits, risks, and best practices P T 2014 39 7 491–520
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