Hearing Partnership™ Solution

Overview of the Challenge

85% of the 48 million Americans suffering from the ‘invisible disability’ of hearing loss do NOT access treatment.[1] This stunning statistic points clearly to a systemic problem in the nation’s hearing health system. Millions are suffering needlessly from communication disorders when help is available.  This means only about 1 in 7 persons that need hearing aids actually wear them.[2] The cost is measured in economic and quality of life dimensions: people with untreated communication disorders are less efficient in work or lose their jobs,[3] and countless personal relations suffer stress and other problems.[4]  Research has found an association of untreated hearing loss and early onset dementia.[5] Two-thirds of those with hearing loss report severe social and emotional handicaps on tests of psychological functioning.[6] Hard of hearing persons and their family members need trustworthy information and social strategies beyond the technology to be successful.   Patients that acquire hearing aids need to have realistic expectations about what it takes to adjust to their proper use.  For various reasons – often social – many patients stop using their hearing aids before becoming acclimated to their successful use.

The Hearing Partnership™ Solution

The Hearing Partnership™ innovative patient intervention and corresponding educational program helps patients overcome barriers inhibiting access and successful treatment of their hearing loss.  Our approach is based on our leadership experience in public health innovation.  We are the first to integrate a 'community health worker' model in a private practice of hearing care.  Our intervention is an ideal referral option for primary care providers that are looking for higher confidence that their referred patients achieve successful hearing care outcomes.  The Hearing Partnership™ intervention and research responds to findings of the U.S. Task Force on Preventative Services:

“Because effectiveness of any hearing screening strategy will depend on how likely those who might benefit from hearing aids are to actually use them, research is needed on effective methods for enhancing follow-up rates and uptake of recommended treatment following screening.”[7] 

Studies are needed “on the effectiveness of behavioral interventions in addition to or instead of hearing aids to help patients cope with or manage hearing loss.”[8]

The Hearing Partnership™ intervention is primarily based on patient strategies our co-founder Judith Bergeron, HIS employs successfully with her patients and on the personal experience of our co-founders as patients living well with hearing loss.   Our Hears to Life! Coaching™ program is designed to deliver these successful strategies to larger numbers of patients.

Community Health Workers (CHWs)

Research shows 'community health workers' (CHWs) significantly improve health outcomes[9] and lower health care costs.[10] [11]  Hearing Partnership™ has adapted application of CHW services to provide a new kind of patient experience in hearing care.  A core innovation of our program is our Hears to Life!Coaching™ program.  Our CHW approach provides patient education, system guidance, and referrals to other services and resources to support patient success.  Our coaches are licensed hearing health care providers and other public health professionals who themselves are hard of hearing persons.  

The Hearing Journal published an excellent article about research underway with CHWs in hearing health care in its May 2015 issue.  Read the article, “Community Health Workers Bridge Gap to Hearing Loss Treatment”.  Hearing Partnership's model practice, Beauport Hearing Care, is the first private hearing care practice to integrate the services of a professional CHW.

For more information on the role and value of 'community health workers' (CHWs), see the Massachusetts Department of Public Health report, Achieving the Triple Aim: Success with Community Health Workers.

Another helpful article on how CHWs make a truly positive difference in people's lives is available on WBUR's CommonHealth blog:  How Community Health Workers Act As A ‘Bridge’ For Patients Needing Extra Help.

NOTES

[1] “Hearing Loss Prevalence in the United States”, Frank B. Lin, John K. Niparko, and Luigi Ferrucci, Archives of Internal Medicine, November 14, 2011

[2]Hearing Loss Association of America, http://www.hearingloss.org/content/basic-facts-about-hearing-loss

[3] Better Hearing Institute, ”Boomers benefit from hearing aids as they stay in the workforce longer”, http://www.betterhearing.org/about/enews/em080912.html

[4] Personal Health: Lifelines for People with Hearing Loss, New York Times, January 16, 2012, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/16/personal-health-lifelines-for-people-with-hearing-loss/

[5] Archives of Neurology, http://archneur.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=802291

[6] “Quality-of-Life Changes and Hearing Impairment. A Randomized Trial,” by C.D. Mulrow et al., Annals of Internal Medicine, 1990

[7] “Screening for Hearing Loss in Adults Ages 50 Years and Older: A Review of the Evidence” for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53869/

[8] Ibid

[9]  Community Health Workers/Promotores de Salud: Critical Connections in Communities,    http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/projects/comm.htm

[10] “Community Health Workers: A Review of Program Evolution, Evidence on Effectiveness and Value, and Status of Workforce Development in New England”, Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, June 2013, http://cepac.icer-review.org/?page_id=1066.

[11] “Community Health Worker National Workforce Study”, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions, March 2007, http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce/reports/chwstudy2007.pdf.