Improving hearing health care for adults in the United States is an urgent public health problem, and contributing to solutions is a priority for the NIDCD. Approximately 15 percent of American adults, or 37.5 million people, report some degree of hearing loss. For many of these individuals, assistive technologies such as hearing aids could significantly improve their quality of life, yet only about one in four of those who could benefit from hearing aids has ever used them.
To help address this important public health issue, the NIDCD joined the National Institute on Aging, Department of Veterans Affairs, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense, and the Hearing Loss Association of America to cosponsor a consensus study on accessibility and affordability of hearing health care by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Released June 2, 2016, the study results from a thorough analysis of the state of hearing health care for adults in the United States and puts forth 12 recommendations to direct hearing health care reform. These goals encourage agencies, organizations, and professionals to improve access to a wide range of services and technologies, to make those services and technologies more affordable for adults with hearing loss, and to increase transparency to and awareness among consumers and health providers in order to help consumers make more informed choices in managing hearing loss.
In addition, the NIDCD supports innovative clinical and translational research initiatives to lay the foundation for improving accessible and affordable hearing health care, such as identifying barriers to hearing health care, assessing novel service delivery and screening models, and other approaches to improve access to and affordability of hearing health care for adults. These initiatives began in large part in response to research gaps identified during the 2009 NIDCD Workshop on Accessible and Affordable Hearing Health Care for Adults with Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss.
As of January 2023, the NIDCD supports 20 active research projects on accessible and affordable hearing health care (AAHHC). This research covers a wide range of topics, examples of which include:
- Exploring and addressing barriers and incentives for adults seeking hearing health care.
- Seeking ways to predict, improve, and measure hearing health care outcomes.
- Working to develop safe and effective user-centered hearing aid fitting.
- Testing ways to promote hearing health care access and use in primary care.
- Investigating how to improve delivery of care in community settings to people with hearing loss.
- Reducing disparities in access to hearing health care.