Date of Award

Spring 4-30-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Martha Polovich


Hearing impairment is one of the most common issues that older adults’ experience. About 2% of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing impairment, and the rate increases to 8.5% for 55 to 64 years old. The incidence of hearing impairment tripled for those 65 to 74 years of age and is approximately 50% for those 75 and older (NIDCD). Despite the fact that hearing impairment affects the lives of older adults, there is often a lengthy delay between the time individuals’ first notice that they are having hearing difficulties and when they seek help from a hearing professional. The purpose of the study was to examine the factors that are thought to influence the health-seeking intentions and health-seeking behavior of older adults with hearing impairment.

A prospective correlational design was used. Older adults were recruited in churches and senior centers located in Cobb County, Georgia and screened for hearing impairment by Shoebox Audiometry or the Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly-Screening version with initial data collection and then followed up via telephone after eight weeks. There were 114 participants who enrolled and 103 completed the study. Instruments measured the knowledge and attitudes, stigma, self-efficacy, intention to seek professional help, and health-seeking behavior about hearing impairment.

Knowledge about hearing loss (p= .003), social engagement in activities, and health-seeking intention (p=<.001) were the predictors of seeking professional help among this sample of older adults with hearing impairment. Social engagement was associated with negative coping strategies, denial of hearing loss, hearing loss stigma, and self-efficacy in seeking help about hearing impairment. Stigma about hearing loss was negatively correlated with self-efficacy in seeking help about hearing impairment. Social engagement in activities was associated with health-seeking behavior of older adults with hearing impairment (X(1) = 25.44, p= <.05)

The older adults’ reasons for not seeking professional help about hearing impairment were mostly related to negative attitudes towards hearing help-seeking. Understanding the various factors related to why such a large proportion of hearing impaired older adults do not seek professional help or consultation is needed so that appropriate screening and assessment programs can be culturally tailored or modified accordingly to the needs of this vulnerable population.