The purpose of this proposal is to develop (R21) and test the effectiveness (R33) of an innovative community health worker intervention to expand access to hearing healthcare among older adults facing health disparities. The community health worker model has been used successfully in U.S.-Mexico border communities to increase access to healthcare and self-management for a range of chronic conditions. The innovation of this proposal is to combine this evidence-based public health model with low-cost, community-based audiologic rehabilitation to reduce disparities in access to care for chronic hearing loss. I many rural communities facing health disparities, hearing aids are inaccessible to the people who need them due to financial barriers, and there are typically no other avenues to reduce the burden of hearing loss on quality of life. The hypothesis is that a community health worker (Promotora) model will be effective and relevant in reducing hearing health disparities via health education, social support, and language mediation. Given that the current prevalence of treatment for chronic hearing loss is low, it is essential that researchers collaborate with members of the community and providers to assess the state of care prior to and during the development of alternative interventions. The phased development approach (RFA-DC-12-003) lends itself to the iterative process that is critical to creating a sustainable and culturally relvant approach to make hearing healthcare more accessible within communities facing health disparities.
The specific aims are divided across the two phases of research. The R21 phase includes Aim 1) Develop and implement a needs assessment identifying factors that underlie barriers to access in an older Hispanic/Latino population and Aim 2) Conduct a pilot intervention research study assessing the feasibility of community-based audiologic rehabilitation combined with a community health worker intervention to improve access to care. The R33 phase includes subsequent aims to validate the clinical utility of the novel approach and to track longitudinal outcomes, two important benchmarks for evidence-based practice. These include Aim 3) Determine the comparative effectiveness of Promatora interventions for chronic hearing loss relative to a standard care approach in a randomized controlled trial design;and 4) Assess longitudinal quality of life outcomes from the entry point of hearing screening through hearing rehabilitation. The partners on this grant include audiology faculty from the University of Arizona public health researchers from the Arizona Prevention Research Center, and community health workers at the Mariposa Community Health Center, a federally qualified health center on the U.S.-Mexico border. This unique interdisciplinary research team offers a significant opportunity to unite current research areas and expertise to develop a low- cost, deliverable, and effective alternative intervention that yields measurable improvements in quality of life for individual patients and their families, as well as a more sustainable and cost-effective model of hearing healthcare delivery in rural health settings with diverse populations.
The proposed research addresses the critical lack of culture- and language-specific interventions for hearing loss in adults and is expected to lead to more accessible hearing healthcare for Hispanic/Latino adults facing health disparities. This goal combines the NIDCD mission to improve the function and quality of life of individuals with communication disorders with Healthy People 2020 objectives to reduce health disparities.