Volume 44 Number 5 2007
Pages 739 — 750

Abstract - Effectiveness of group versus individual hearing aid visits

Margaret P. Collins, PhD, CCC-A;1-3* Pamela E. Souza, PhD, CCC-A;3 Sami O'Neill, MA, CCC-A;2-3
Bevan Yueh, MD, MPH1,4-6

1Health Services Research and Development Service and 2Rehabilitation Care Services, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, WA; 3Department of Speech and Hearing Science, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; 4Surgical and Perioperative Care Service, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, WA; Departments of 5Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and 6Health Services, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Abstract — Demand for hearing aid services in the Veterans Health Administration increased over 300% from 1996 to 2005, challenging the delivery of timely, high-quality care. Using group visits may help meet these needs, but whether this approach would still provide high-quality rehabilitation is unclear. This study determined whether group visits worsen hearing aid outcomes. It included a retrospective observational cohort in veterans seeking hearing aids at the Department of Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System from September 2004 to March 2005, when the clinic was using both individual and group visits. Medical records were reviewed for all new hearing aid patients seen during this period. Hearing-related outcome questionnaires were compared between patients seen for individual versus group fitting and/or follow-up visits. Results revealed that hearing thresholds were similar between patients seen individually and in groups. Of 74 patients who returned self-administered questionnaires after the follow-up, those who received both fitting and follow-up in a group format reported similar hearing handicap and better hearing-related function, satisfaction, and adherence than patients who received individual visits. Group visits did not appear to yield worse outcomes in this nonrandomized retrospective chart review. Definitive statements must await randomized comparisons.

Key words: education, group visits (non-Medical Subject Heading), health resources, health services research, hearing aids, hearing impaired, hearing loss, outcome assessment, patient satisfaction, rehabilitation of hearing impaired, veterans.

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