Publication date: Sep 06, 2023
This article aimed to evaluate associations of self-reported hearing loss with health care access and delays and difficulties communicating with health care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Community Impact Survey was administered online to a sample of participants from the population-based Survey of the Health of Wisconsin study cohort in Spring 2021. Hearing loss was defined as self-reported fair or poor hearing. Difficulty with health care access and delays were defined as self-reporting needing but not getting medical care or self-reporting delays in appointments due to COVID-19, respectively. Poor communication with health care providers was defined as self-reported difficulties communicating with health care providers due to wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic. Logistic regression models were used to evaluate associations between hearing loss and the health care outcomes. Results are presented as odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs). First, models were adjusted for age and sex. Next, models were additionally adjusted for education, race/ethnicity, self-rated health, and number of chronic conditions. This study included 1,582 participants (62. 3% women; 11. 9% non-White; age range: 18-75+ years). The number of participants with hearing loss was 196 (12. 4%). After multivariable adjustment, self-reported hearing loss was associated with poorer health care access (OR = 2. 41, 95% CI [1. 62, 3. 59]), health care delays (OR = 1. 93, 95% CI [1. 37, 2. 71]), and increased difficulty communicating with health care providers wearing face masks (OR = 3. 31, 95% CI [2. 15, 5. 08]) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on difficulties accessing and using health care are likely exacerbated for individuals with hearing loss. There is a need for interventions that will optimize health care experiences for individuals with hearing loss, particularly when face masks and/or telecommunications are used to provide health care services.