Investigating gender-specific determinants of help-seeking behaviors and Walk, Talk ‘n’ Listen participation in older adults with hearing loss
Objective: Hearing loss (HL), which affects 78% of Canadians aged 60-79, can negatively impact socialization, health, and cognition. Many people take years to seek help, and most go undiagnosed or untreated. Walk, Talk ‘n’ Listen (WTL) was a community based randomized control trial of older adults with HL aimed at determining the benefit of group exercise and health education added to Group Auditory Rehabilitation. Unlike most group exercise programs, the majority of participants were male. We aimed to explore motivators and barriers to help seeking in older adults with HL.
Methods: Semi-structured guided interviews were conducted on 14 participants of WTL. Qualitative content analysis identified key themes within each cluster of ideas discussed.
Results: Participants discovered their HL through difficulties functioning or by external advisement (via family members or hearing tests), and were motivated to seek help for the same reasons. Men were motivated by their partners, specifically. Denial was the main reason for delay followed by pride/stigma. Participants joined the WTL to be proactive in their health, for physical activity, because they felt it was relevant for them, and, for men, for the support of others. Barriers were either physical (geography and disabilities) or social (denial, resistant to change, misconceptions about WTL).
Conclusion: Older adults are delayed in recognizing and understanding the extent of their hearing loss, and thus delayed in seeking help. This could be mitigated by improved screening of HL in older adults, or by targeting family members to promote help seeking, especially men’s communication partners.