A Comparison of the Use of Smart Devices, Apps, and Social Media between Adults with and without Hearing Impairment: Cross-sectional Web-Based Study

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Background: eHealth and social media could be of particular benefit to adults with hearing impairment, but it is unknown whether their use of smart devices, apps, and social media is similar to that of the general population. Objective: Our aim is to study whether adults with normal hearing and those with impaired hearing differ in their weekly use of smart devices, apps, and social media; reasons for using social media; and benefits from using social media. Methods: We used data from a Dutch cohort, the National Longitudinal Study on Hearing. Data were collected from September 2016 to April 2020 using a web-based questionnaire and speech-in-noise test. The results from this test were used to categorize normal hearing and hearing impairment. Outcomes were compared using (multiple) logistic regression models. Results: Adults with impaired hearing (n=384) did not differ from normal hearing adults (n=341) in their use of a smartphone or tablet. They were less likely to make use of social media apps on a smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch (age-adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.67, 95% CI 0.48-0.92; P=.02). Use of social media on all devices and use of other apps did not differ. Adults with hearing impairment were more likely to agree with using social media to stay in touch with family members (OR 1.54, 95% CI 1.16-2.07; P=.003) and friends (age-adjusted OR 1.35, 95% CI 1.01-1.81; P=.046). Furthermore, they were more likely to agree with using social media to perform their work (age-adjusted OR 1.51, 95% CI 1.04-2.18; P=.03). There were no differences in the experienced benefits from social media. Conclusions: The potential for eHealth is confirmed because adults with hearing impairment are not less likely to use smart devices than their normal hearing peers. Adults with hearing impairment are less likely to use social media apps on a smart device but not less likely to use social media on all types of internet-connected devices. This warrants further research on the types of social media platforms that adults with hearing impairment use and on the type of device on which they prefer to use social media. Given that participants with hearing impairment are more likely than their normal hearing peers to use social media to perform their work, use of social media may be seen as an opportunity to enhance vocational rehabilitation services for persons with hearing impairment.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere27599
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • App use
  • Benefits from social media
  • EHealth
  • Hearing impairment
  • Mobile phone
  • Social media use

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