Recent events, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have once again highlighted health inequalities experienced by people from ethnic minority backgrounds. Our Editors’ Choice paper shows that there are inequalities in hearing aid use and includes the stark finding that ethnicity is one of the best predictors of early hearing aid use in adults. The reasons for this may be complex but, as individual clinicians, we can take positive action to understand potential barriers to our services and the effects that discrimination has on access. Many thanks as always to our reviewers for all their hard work and contributions.
Nazia Munir and Hannah Cooper
Existing evidence suggests people from ethnic minority groups in the UK are half as likely as white groups to use a hearing aid, exacerbating poorer health and quality of life outcomes. Ethnic inequalities are linked to experiences of racism when accessing services, and poorer overall healthcare experiences. An extension of a previous study, the research uses Biobank data from 2006-2010 on people aged between 40-69. Additional measures are hearing aid use, speech in noise (DTT), self-reported hearing difficulty and tinnitus presence, alongside a variety of correlates deemed related to ethnicity by the research group. It is suggested that measures of socioeconomic status are crude and the existing evidence attempting to link status and hearing aid use is mixed. A lack of trust in healthcare services and the patient-clinician relationship may also be a factor in some groups’ limited access to health and hearing care. The highest proportion of those reporting hearing loss were white British or Irish, at 28.3% compared with 9.8% of the black African group, suggesting that the rate of hearing aid use will mirror this finding, given that self-report status correlates with aid use. Available Biobank data preceded the introduction of measures brought in to tackle health inequality post 2010. Therefore, further exploration is relevant as is further standardised recording of hearing service use and ethnicity. Qualitative measures would allow for greater knowledge and understanding to secure more effective removal of barriers to hearing healthcare for all groups.