The prevalence of hearing loss (HL) in adolescents has grown over the past decade, with rates of 19.5% for HL of >15dB and 5.3% for HL >25dB. Adults with HL are 21% to 39% less likely to have attained postsecondary education than normal-hearing persons and are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to experience depression and career dissatisfaction. Adolescence is a time during which social interactions and peer acceptance become increasing important. Teens with HL who experience communication problems may have difficulty in establishing and maintaining relationships. As the number of adolescents with HL grows, it is increasingly important to help these individuals realize their full educational, psychosocial, and occupational potential. Treatment of HL may have substantial and lasting societal benefits, including the integration of children with HL into mainstream classrooms, higher educational attainment, and improved career potential, however the tools for assessing quality of life for these individuals is lacking.
Quality of life (QOL) is a key outcome of interest for children and adolescent with HL. While many hearing assistive devices may improve audibility, it is also important to determine whether these treatments positively impact the QOL of adolescents with HL. In order to accurately assess the usefulness of interventions, healthcare providers need both age- and disease-specific tools.
To address this need, Clinicians and Scientists in the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis have created the Hearing Environments and Reflection on Quality of Life Questionnaire for Adolescents ages 13 to 18 (HEAR-QL Questionnaire for Adolescents). The HEAR-QL Questionnaire for Adolescents has been validated in a study consisting of 233 adolescents, and was shown to be sensitive, reliable, and a valid measure of hearing-related quality-of-life for adolescents.