Among adults who own hearing aids, 20 percent don't actually use these devices, a new study found.
Researchers from the University of Manchester, along with audiologists from the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in North Wales, analyzed data from the annual National Survey for Wales, which contains the largest sample on hearing aid use in the United Kingdom, and published their findings in the International Journal of Audiology.
This investigation found that approximately 20 percent of adults currently do not use their hearing aids at all, 30 percent use them some of the time, and the remaining 50 percent use the devices most of the time. Of note, they also found that the number of people who never use their hearing aids has been gradually reducing over the past 15 years that the survey has been conducted, and the number of people who regularly use their hearing aids has been increasing over this period.
"Hearing loss is the most common sensory problem in the world, experienced by one in six people in the UK," said study co-author Kevin Munro, PhD, MsC, in a press release. Munro is from The University of Manchester and serves as the Hearing Health Theme Lead at the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). "It has a well-known association with cognitive decline and dementia, and as hearing aids are the primary treatment, it can have a huge benefit to wearers."
According to Munro, the reasons for not using hearing aids include patients' lack of perceived benefit from the devices when managing hearing difficulties.
"Although under-use or non-use of treatments by some patients is by no means unique to hearing aids, achieving uniformly high use of hearing aids by those who need them would provide a major benefit to society," said study lead author Harvey Dillon, PhD, also from The University of Manchester.
"We already know that the largest predictor of hearing aid benefit is the quality of interaction with the health professional, rather than the degree of hearing loss, " he added. "But it's imperative that more research is done to understand why non-use can set in so quickly for some, and devise efficient procedures to prevent this from happening."
Launched in 2004, the National Survey for Wales contains questions on self-perceived hearing difficulty, adoption and use of hearing aids, and the occurrence of difficulty with hearing while wearing hearing aids. The survey includes annual hearing aid data from 10,000 to 16,000 people, collection in person by independent researchers.
While the study involved data on patients from Wales, Munro said that the data set was comprehensive and reliable that "there's no reason to believe the situation is much different in the rest of the UK."
In comparison, hearing aid use estimates obtained from different countries have been of varying quality. with data on hearing aid non-use fluctuating between one and 57 percent among those fitted with hearing aids.
Overall, Munro stressed that the study results highlight an urgent need to tackle non-use and under-use.
Editor's note: The original material was provided by the University of Manchester. The accuracy of information in this press release are the responsibility of the source, and opinions expressed are not necessarily the views of The Hearing Journal.