Impact of Primary Language and Insurance on Pediatric Hearing Health Care in a Multidisciplinary Clinic

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Abstract

Objective

This study aims to describe the effects of primary language and insurance status on care utilization among deaf or hard-of-hearing children under active otolaryngologic and audiologic care.

Study Design

Cross-sectional analysis.

Setting

Multidisciplinary hearing loss clinic at a tertiary center.

Subjects and Methods

Demographics, hearing loss data, and validated survey responses were collected from 206 patients aged 0 to 19 years. Two-sided t tests and χ2 tests were used to obtain descriptive statistics and hypothesis testing.

Results

Of the sample, 52.4% spoke primarily English at home. Non-English-speaking children and families were less likely to receive psychiatric counseling (12.2% vs 35.2% in the English group, P < .001) and reported more difficulty obtaining educational interventions (P = .016), and 68.9% had public insurance. Parents of publicly insured children were less likely to know the type or degree of their child’s hearing loss (56.9% vs 75.4%, P = .022), and these children were older on presentation to the clinic (8.5 vs 6.5 years of age, P = .01) compared to privately insured children. Publicly insured children were less likely to receive cochlear implants (P = .046) and reported increased difficulty obtaining hearing aids (P = .047). While all patients reported impairment in hearing-related quality of life, publicly insured children aged 2 to 7 years were more likely to perform below minimum thresholds on measures of auditory/oral functioning.

Conclusion

Even when under active care, deaf or hard-of-hearing children from families who do not speak English at home or with public insurance face more difficulty obtaining educational services, cochlear implants, and hearing aids. These findings represent significant disparities in access to necessary interventions.

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