Timing and Impact of Hearing Healthcare in Adult Cochlear Implant Recipients: A Rural–Urban Comparison

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Abstract

Objective:

The purpose of this study is to compare the timing and impact of hearing healthcare of rural and urban adults with severe hearing loss who use cochlear implants (CI).

Study Design:

Cross-sectional questionnaire study.

Setting:

Tertiary referral center.

Patients:

Adult cochlear implant recipients.

Main Outcome Measures:

Data collected included county of residence, socioeconomic information, impact of hearing loss on education/employment, and timing of hearing loss treatment. The benefits obtained from cochlear implantation were also evaluated.

Results:

There were 91 participants (32 from urban counties, 26 from moderately rural counties, and 33 for extremely rural counties). Rural participants have a longer commute time to the CI center (p < 0.001), lower income (p < 0.001), and higher percentage of Medicaid coverage (p = 0.004). Compared with urban-metro participants, rural participants with gradually progressive hearing loss had a greater time interval from the onset of hearing loss to obtaining hearing aid amplification (10 yr versus 5 yr, p = 0.04). There was also a greater time interval from onset of hearing loss to the time of cochlear implantation in rural participants (p = 0.04). Reported job loss was higher in rural participants than in urban participants (p = 0.05). Both groups reported comparable benefit from cochlear implantation.

Conclusion:

Rural CI recipients differ from urban residents in socioeconomic characteristics and may be delayed in timely treatment of hearing loss. Further efforts to expand access to hearing healthcare services may benefit rural adult patients.

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