Category: Maximizing Quality of Life

18 - Providing post implantation support to older adults with cochlear implants: Development and evaluation of an online resource

Age-related hearing loss is the third-most common chronic health condition among older adults. Untreated hearing loss relates to myriad negative psychosocial and physical outcomes, including increased loneliness and isolation, reduced independence and participation in daily and social activities, lowered self-esteem, depression, falls, and dementia. Fortunately, changing eligibility and reimbursement criteria have increased cochlear implant (CI) use among older adults. CIs can vastly increase the quality of life for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing by giving them access to sound. While a CI does not restore hearing, it bypasses damaged or nonfunctioning parts of the ear to create a representation of sound.

Post implantation support for older adults with CIs, even long-term CI users, helps maximize the benefits of CI use. However, support is often difficult to access due to time, financial, and locational constraints. In-person support services may be intermittent or lacking due to limited therapist availability in remote or rural locations and inadequate insurance coverage. There is a substantial need for alternative sources of ongoing, low-cost, widely available, and evidence-based post implantation support for older adults.

This presentation discusses the development of an innovative and practical online, post implantation support resource to help adults aged 60+ with CIs. Specifically, the online resource supports older adults to develop social communication skills, increase their ability to use their CI effectively, and manage challenging physical and social hearing environments. The resource also includes supportive information for family members and friends. We developed the content for the resource in conjunction with a hearing loss advocacy organization; experts in the fields of audiology, otolaryngology, auditory rehabilitation, and hearing loss epidemiology; and a panel of older adults and their family members and friends. This resource provides evidence-based, practical information through a website with downloadable handouts and streaming animated vignettes.

We conducted usability testing with older adults and their family members to ensure the website was easy to read, comprehend, and navigate. Additionally, we collected primary quantitative data using a randomized control trial evaluation design with older adults, and family members and friends of older adults. The pretest and posttest measures’ validity and reliability were assessed through pilot testing with members of the intended audience. The program development, usability testing, pilot testing, and evaluation findings will be discussed


Nicole I. Wanty

Research Associate I
KDH Research & Communication
Atlanta, Georgia

Nicole Wanty is the principal investigator responsible for the development and evaluation of the online resource for older adults with cochlear implants (Cochlear Implant Support Center: Resources for Older Adults). The Cochlear Implant Support Center was developed in collaboration with the Hearing Loss Association of America, and was made possible by a Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) grant (number 1R43DC015194-01A1) from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health. Ms. Wanty has also served as the project manager for the development and evaluation of self-advocacy skills building resources for high school and college students with cochlear implants. She has extensive contacts in the deaf, hard of hearing, and cochlear implant communities, and well-developed sensitivities and strategies to work effectively with this population. Academically, Ms. Wanty has a broad background in the social (sociology, anthropology) and biological sciences with in-depth and hands-on training in research and evaluation methodologies. She received her Master of Applied Anthropology with a focus on biological anthropology of chronic and infectious diseases from the University of Maryland, College Park and her Bachelor of Arts (sociology/anthropology, biology, and German) from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

Melody R. Simpson-Jiles

Research Associate II
KDH Research & Communication
Atlanta, Georgia

Melody Simpson-Jiles is a recent college graduate with a Master of Public Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Georgia. She has collaborated on several research projects in her Master’s program and at KDH Research & Communication (KDHRC). She has experience conducting formative research, data analysis, and program evaluation. Her current work at KDHRC focuses on the development and evaluation of the online resource for older adults with cochlear implants. Her past research projects have focused on disease prevention programs, drug use, and demographic analysis.

Kristen D. Holtz

President and CEO
KDH Research & Communication
Atlanta, Georgia

Dr. Holtz is an experienced researcher and scholar in the fields of substance abuse prevention and science education; child mental health, particularly as it relates to social acceptance of children with differences; the psychosocial and practical needs of individuals with cochlear implants; and social marketing. Dr. Holtz has published her research in academic journals and presented professional meetings across the country, developed and disseminated a multitude of evidence-based programs and products for practitioner and lay audiences, and won multiple federal grants and contracts from the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Holtz has also taught graduate level courses in child development, life span development, adult development, and women’s health.