Hearing connects us to the people and the world around us.

Cochlear Center researchers are investigating ways to improve patient-provider communications and thinking creatively about how to bridge gaps in who can access hearing care.

Communication is essential for providing patient-centered care. Strong patient-provider communication is associated with better healthcare outcomes. However, hearing loss is rarely considered in communication improvement initiatives despite its impact on communication.

  • Nicholas Reed developed and leads the Engaging Healthcare to Address Communication Environments program. ENHANCE is designed to deliver a simple, scalable program that is compatible with healthcare workflow to identify and address hearing loss with amplifiers and communication strategies. The core principle of ENHANCE is that awareness of hearing loss and communication modifications to address patient-provider communication is a requirement of the provider and should not fall on the patient. The team is currently refining these materials for public consumption. 
  • Reed and Esther Oh oversee work to understand the impact of hearing loss on key health care use outcomes, and lead initiatives to implement ENHANCE program best practices including performing hearing screening on all adults admitted to the hospital, and providing amplification devices to patients and communication strategies to providers.
  • Reed and Oh are leading a pragmatic trial of Johns Hopkins patients to better understand the association of hearing loss on delirium in the hospital and whether addressing hearing loss via the ENHANCE program reduces risk of delirium. 

Hearing health care delivery in the U.S. and much of the world excludes vast numbers of people.  Center researchers, led by Carrie Nieman, are committed to developing new models for hearing care that incorporate public health practices and provide access to all older adults. 

  • Nieman developed the Hearing Health Equity Through Accessible Research and Solutions program. HEARS incorporates over-the-counter hearing technologies and hearing education delivered by community health workers, who use materials created by the Center for Social Design at the Maryland Institute College of Art, that are designed to be accessible to all older adults regardless of education, literacy level, or cognitive status.
  • Results of an NIH-funded, randomized clinical trial, published in the Journal of American Medical Association, validated the HEARS model of hearing care that empowers community health workers to reach older adults with untreated hearing loss. Further trials of the HEARS program are planned at three sites across Maryland, and Nieman is seeking collaborators and funding to grow the program globally. 

Learn more about HEARS.