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Oct. 24, 2013 Volume 35, No. 10

Professor receives fellowship award to investigate use of hearing aids

Researcher hopes to end stigma surrounding hearing aid use

Nearly half of individuals who are prescribed hearing aids do not wear the devices, research has shown. A University of Missouri researcher has received a fellowship that will help her continue her work to increase hearing-aid use among adults with hearing impairments.

The National Hartford Centers of Gerontological Nursing Excellence recently named Kari Lane, assistant professor of nursing in the Sinclair School of Nursing, a Claire M. Fagin Fellow. The awards are given to four gerontological nurses each year who specialize in diverse health care areas. Each fellow receives $120,000 to support research training, mentorship, leadership and career development.

Previously, Lane developed an intervention and self-guided workbook that help adults with hearing impairments acclimate to hearing aids. The fellowship award will allow Lane to test the effectiveness of the intervention and see to what extent it increases adults’ hearing-aid use.

Lane said several factors contribute to why some individuals do not use their hearing aids or why they only wear the devices occasionally.

“When adults with hearing impairments begin wearing hearing aids, they hear things that they aren’t used to hearing, which can be overwhelming, fatiguing and frustrating,” Lane said. “In addition, the cost to purchase and maintain the devices is high, and multiple appointments to fit the hearing aids can also cause stress.”

Despite obstacles that prevent individuals from using their hearing aids, the devices give those with hearing impairments an enhanced quality of life that is worth the time and money needed to adjust to the devices, Lane said.

“People think wearing hearing aids makes them old,” Lane said. “It’s important to reduce the stigma associated with wearing hearing aids so more people use the devices. The sooner individuals receive treatment for their hearing problems, the better their outcomes are.”

If the intervention she developed proves effective, Lane said she hopes to train others how to use the workbook and accompanying intervention. Ideally, she would like to train individuals at audiological clinics who could educate and assist persons with hearing impairments so they continue using the devices.

— Jesslyn Chew