Closing the gap in cochlear implant access for African-Americans: a story of outreach and collaboration by our cochlear implant program

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Minorities often lag behind in hearing loss evaluation and treatment. Our cochlear implant program aimed to identify the socioeconomic and cultural barriers that prevented our African-American cochlear implant candidates from seeking help for their hearing loss, specifically cochlear implant surgery.

Recent findings

Our pilot study surveyed 11 African-Americans with cochlear implants and identified obstacles that included patient–physician mistrust, social stigma, financial cost, and lack of education about the devices and procedures. Our experienced cochlear implant team then addressed these issues in its weekly meetings to review cases and potential cochlear implant candidates, and we partnered with community organizations to improve awareness about cochlear implants among healthcare professionals and the public.

Summary

During our cochlear implant team's community outreach to African-Americans with hearing loss, we initiated several actions to address the various disparities in access to care and use of services: development of patient education, patient-run support group, tracking of clinical outcomes, and opportunities for involvement in health policy making for cochlear implants. Cochlear implant teams should deepen their involvement with African-Americans and other minorities with hearing loss to better support and ultimately improve cochlear implant access, performance, and function.

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