Readability, quality and suitability of web-based consumer audiological health information for adults with a hearing impairment living in New Zealand.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Audiology
Purpose: To investigate the readability, quality and suitability of online hearing-related written healthcare materials available to New Zealand consumers. Method: The key terms “hearing loss” and “hearing aids” were entered into Google New Zealand, the most commonly used search engine in New Zealand. The first 10 Websites that matched the study’s inclusion and exclusion criteria were retrieved for each key term, along with each Websites’ origin (commercial, non-profit or government). After removing duplicates, a total of 510 Webpages from 19 different Websites were retrieved and analysed. Readability was analysed using the Flesch-Kincaid (F-K), Flesch Reading Ease (FRE), and Simple Measure Of Gobbledygook (SMOG) readability formulas. Quality was analysed using the DISCERN quality questionnaire, which was completed by two experienced audiological researchers for each of the 19 Websites. Suitability was analysed using the Suitability Assessment of Materials (SAM) questionnaire, completed in the same fashion as the DISCERN questionnaire. Results: Readability levels were generally high, with consumers needing on average 12-13 years of education to be able to comprehend the materials. When using the F-K as the readability measure, only 13 Webpages (2.5%) were below the 6th grade reading level recommended by health literacy experts. No significant differences in readability levels were found between Websites from different origins. Quality ratings were generally low, with the total mean of the DISCERN scores indicating that the general trend of the Websites was to meet the DISCERN criterion only to some extent. Again, no significant differences were found in quality ratings for Websites from different origins. Suitability ratings were similarly low, with all the SAM scores found to be in the “inadequate” range. Websites with a commercial origin were found to have significantly higher suitability ratings than Websites with a non-profit origin. Conclusion: The readability, quality and suitability levels of online hearing-related written healthcare materials available to New Zealand consumers are generally lower than optimal. A list of recommendations has been provided to assist Website developers in improving online hearing-related written healthcare materials