Affiliation: School of Medicine, Department of Allied Health Sciences, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences
Nearly 40% of children with hearing loss have one or more disabilities in addition to hearing loss (1). These include intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, and blindness, all of which have higher rates of prevalence in children with hearing loss when compared to the general population (2). It has also been well documented in the literature that people with I/DD have less access to healthcare, resulting in higher rates of undetected and unmanaged health problems (3). In addition, even when people with I/DD are able to access the healthcare system, providers often find themselves poorly equipped to work with these populations (4).
Recognizing these issues, the Special Olympics Healthy Hearing (SOHH) was implemented in 1999 in an effort to identify previously undiagnosed hearing loss. In the year 2014 alone, 18,398 hearing screenings were performed globally, resulting in 4,710 referrals (5). Unfortunately, data are not actively collected on how many of these referrals lead to diagnosis and treatment for hearing loss. As one of the goals of the Healthy Hearing program is to improve accessibility to health care, obtaining information on referral outcomes following Healthy Hearing screenings is needed to determine if hearing screening programs are accomplishing their goals. As with all screening programs, it is the intervention that occurs as a result of screening that is most important. This study was designed to gain insight regarding important questions concerning the rate of follow-up, potential barriers to follow-up, and possible solutions to improve access to hearing healthcare for people with I/DD.