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University of Missouri

Amped-up Research

Nursing professor works to increase hearing aid use among adults with hearing impairments.

Kari Lane

Kari Lane, who has suffered from hearing loss since she was 17, conducts research at Tiger Place retirement home with individuals who should wear hearing aids but don’t. Photo by Rob Hill.

Hearing loss runs in Kari Lane’s family. The assistant professor of nursing was diagnosed at 17. Named one of four 2013 John A. Hartford Foundation Claire M. Fagin Fellows by the National Hartford Centers of Geronotological Nursing Excellence, Lane is testing an intervention to reduce the number of individuals who are prescribed hearing aids but don’t wear them.

Whether due to the expense of the devices, which range from $1,800 to $6,800 per pair; the stigma associated with hearing loss; or the sometimes-painful and annoying noises they might not be used to hearing, such as the sound of a whirring fan, nearly half of all individuals who should wear hearing aids don’t.

But there is a higher cost of not wearing them, Lane says. Adults with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report depression and less likely to participate in social activities than those who wear hearing aids.

Lane is working with that population to reintroduce them to hearing aids. Study participants start by wearing their hearing aids at home for short periods of time and gradually increase the amount of time and sound complexity. After one month, Lane wants them to be able to wear their hearing aids in all environments.

When working with patients, Lane often shares her personal struggle with hearing loss. “I think it is helpful to see there are people who have hearing loss who can do really well.”