Evaluation of the LASH program at Towson University’s Hearing and Balance Center
Towson University. Department of Audiology, Speech-Language Pathology and Deaf Studies
Citation of Original Publication
It is estimated that over 360 million people have hearing loss worldwide, making it one of the most prevalent chronic health conditions (WHO, 2015). Hearing aids are the most common form of treatment for hearing loss. However, less than a fourth of individuals with a diagnosed hearing loss use hearing aids (Kochkin et al., 2010). Low rates of hearing aid use have been associated with lower levels of education, income, and financial support (Bainbridge & Ramachandran, 2014; Nieman et al., 2016). Numerous programs and foundations exist that provide financial assistance for hearing aids for low-income individuals that have hearing loss. Studies on existing low income program have found that these programs were successful at providing hearing aids to low-income individuals but that follow-up appointments were necessary to address patient’s concerns and monitor long-term outcomes of hearing aid benefit (Freitas & Costa, 2007; Iwahashi, Jardim, & Bento, 2013). The purpose of this study was to conduct a retrospective chart review of 100 patients that have received hearing aids and services through the LASH program at the TU-HBC. Information regarding patient population characteristics (i.e., age, gender, hearing loss) and program outcomes were recorded from the patient charts. This study revealed that a majority of the patients seen through the LASH program qualified for reduced service fees, which suggests that the program is reaching the target population. A total of 23 participants were lost to follow-up and there was a wide range in the duration between the fitting and first follow-up appointment. About half of the participants required at least one repair. These findings suggest the need for a better follow-up protocol to monitor long-term use. Overall, the amount of revenue the TU-HBC generated from participating in the program was as expected, which indicates that participation in the LASH program is not detrimental to the clinic financially. Future research should focus on gathering more detailed information regarding patient demographics, comparing outcomes of LASH patients to patients with private pay or insurance, and include subject questionnaires to get a better understanding of the patient’s personal experience with the hearing aids.