Dr. Michelle Arnold's article was published by a prestigious medical journal.

USFSM professor’s research finds low hearing aid use by Hispanic/Latino older adults

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: April 18, 2019

USFSM professor’s research finds low hearing aid use by Hispanic/Latino older adults

Dr. Michelle Arnold

Michelle Arnold, PhD, an assistant professor in the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Science & Mathematics, examines hearing aid use among Hispanic/Latino adults in an upcoming article in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, a prestigious peer-reviewed journal published by the American Medical Association.

Arnold’s article, “Hearing Aid Prevalence and Factors Related to Use among Older Adults from Hispanic/Latino Backgrounds: Findings from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos,” explores factors related to why hearing aid use among U.S. adults of Hispanic/Latino backgrounds is lower than that of the general U.S. population.

In this cross-sectional study of 1,898 adults with hearing loss from varied Hispanic/Latino backgrounds, hearing aid usage was reported among 87 participants (4.6 percent).

After examining factors including language and economic barriers, acculturation and familial influences, Arnold and her co-researchers concluded that the primary factor related to hearing aid use was access to health insurance.

Several researchers collaborated on the study, including: Kathryn Hyer, PhD, MPP, University of South Florida, School of Aging Studies; Brent J. Small, PhD, University of South Florida, School of Aging Studies; Theresa Chisolm, PhD, University of South Florida, Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders; Gabrielle H. Saunders, PhD, Eriksholm Research Centre (Snekkersten, Denmark); Cathy L. McEvoy, PhD, University of South Florida, School of Aging Studies; David J. Lee, PhD, University of Miami Health System; Sumitrajit Dhar, PhD, Northwestern University; and Kathleen E. Bainbridge, PhD, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

The article examines data collected from 2008 to 2011 at four field centers in Bronx, N.Y., Chicago, Miami and San Diego as part of the multisite Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Study participants, drawn randomly at the four field centers, were comprised of adults ages 45-76 with at least a mild hearing loss. They included individuals with Hispanic/Latino backgrounds of Central American, Cuban, Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South American and mixed/other descent.

Arnold said the researchers found that such factors as low acculturation, language and other economic and cultural aspects accounted less for low hearing aid use among study participants than access to health insurance.

“Whether or not the person has current insurance, that was the main barrier,” Arnold said, adding, “Historically, Spanish-speakers in the U.S. face huge problems in navigating the insurance system when unable to speak a sufficient level of English.”

Arnold said she was delighted that JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery had agreed to publish the article. The research and original 3,500-word paper took 18 months to complete.

“This is the top journal in my field, so this certainly is a terrific development,” said Arnold, who holds a PhD in Aging Sciences, with a concentration in health policy and practice, as well as a clinical doctorate in audiology.

A former audiologist in Tampa, Arnold said she was motivated to explore hearing aid use among Hispanic/Latino adults as a result of work experiences. She hopes the article inspires health policy changes to promote increased hearing aid use.

“One motivation I have in this study, and in all my research, is to provide data-driven analyses and evidence that hopefully can be used to shape public policy to improve health care access. I’m very much interested in health policy and health equity,” she said.

“Hearing Aid Prevalence and Factors Related to Use among Older Adults from Hispanic/Latino Backgrounds” will appear in the June print issue of JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, a peer-reviewed journal that covers all aspects of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the head, neck, ear, nose and throat. It appeared in the publication’s online version on April 18.

JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery is part of the JAMA Network of journals published by the American Medical Association. To read a press release about the article by the JAMA Network, visit https://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/low-use-of-hearing-aids-among-older-hispanic-latino-adults-in-u-s/. To read the article, visit https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaotolaryngology/fullarticle/2731472?guestAccessKey=8a2030c8-13aa-49f3-b34c-a0db330db1f5&utm_source=For_The_Media&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=ftm_links&utm_content=tfl&utm_term=041819.

The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) was supported by contracts from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to the University of North Carolina (N01-HC65233), University of Miami (N01-HC65234), Albert Einstein College of Medicine (N01-HC65235), Northwestern University (N01-HC65236), and San Diego State University (N01-HC65237). The following NIH Institutes/Centers/Office contributed to the HCHS/SOL: National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the Office of Dietary Supplements.

For more about USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Communication Sciences & Disorders degree program, visit usfsm.edu/academics/programs-and-majors/undergraduate/communication-sciences-and-disorders/index.aspx.

Read more news stories below or view as a list