Breaking Barriers to hearing health care

Are you a primary care provider interested in improving the system through which adults in BC access hearing health care?

Hearing loss is a significant public health issue, yet many adults with acquired hearing loss do not seek or receive treatment for their hearing. It ranks third worldwide in disability-related loss of years of health and is one of the most significant contributors to the global burden of disease. Approximately 688 000 adults (20–79 years old) in British Columbia have hearing loss that affects their ability to hear conversational speech. Early detection and treatment are critical because age-related hearing loss is usually irreversible, gradual, and worsens over time. 

Unfortunately, uptake of hearing health care and treatment, such as hearing aids, is astonishingly low. A large portion of people (75% to 80%) with hearing loss don’t seek care, don’t obtain hearing aids or other hearing-assistive technology, or discontinue use over time. Untreated hearing loss affects communication and health-related quality of life and is linked to social isolation, greater risk of falls, and reduced financial security. The time between someone first noticing hearing loss and seeking help is 7 to 10 years on average.

Primary care providers can play a significant role in addressing systemic barriers to hearing health care in BC so that adults with hearing loss seek and receive help. Even though referrals are generally not required for a hearing assessment, adults tend to consult the health care provider they typically see for everyday care when they have hearing concerns. 

Breaking Barriers is a research project being conducted by the UBC School of Audiology and Speech Sciences in partnership with the Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility. The goal of this project is to support primary care providers to be instigators of change for their patients with hearing loss, and we are inviting primary care providers to join an advisory group. The advisory group meets four times per year (currently online). If you are interested in sharing your expertise and perspective to this research, please contact Craig Stevenson at
—Craig Stevenson
Partner & Community Engagement Coordinator, Breaking Barriers Project
On behalf of the research team: Dr Brenda Poon, Dr Lorienne Jenstad, Ms Danielle Lafleur

This post has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.

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