DOI: 10.1002/ohn.665 ISSN: 0194-5998

Access to Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss Care at Private Equity‐Owned Otolaryngology Clinics

Afash Haleem, Alejandro Garcia, Sophia Khan, Purvi Shakelly, Daniel J. Lee
  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Surgery



Characterizing access to sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) care at private practice otolaryngology clinics of varying ownership models.

Study Design

Cross‐sectional prospective review.


Private practice otolaryngology clinics.


We employed a Secret Shopper study design with private equity (PE) owned and non‐PE‐owned clinics within 15 miles of one another. Using a standardized script, researchers randomly called 50% of each clinic type between October 2021 and January 2022 requesting an appointment on behalf of a family member enrolled in either Medicaid or private insurance (PI) experiencing SSNHL. Access to timely care was assessed between clinic ownership and insurance type.


Seventy‐eight total PE‐owned otolaryngology clinics were identified across the United States. Only 40 non‐PE clinics could be matched to the PE clinics; 39 PE and 28 non‐PE clinics were called as Medicaid patients; 39 PE and 25 non‐PE clinics were called as PI patients; 48.7% of PE and 28.6% of non‐PE clinics accepted Medicaid. The mean wait time to new appointment ranged between 9.55 and 13.21 days for all insurance and ownership types but did not vary significantly (P > .480). Telehealth was significantly more likely to be offered for new Medicaid patients at non‐PE clinics compared to PE clinics (31.8% vs 0.0%, P = .001). The mean cost for an appointment was significantly greater at PE clinics than at non‐PE clinics ($291.18 vs $203.75, P = .004).


Patients seeking SSNHL care at PE‐owned otolaryngology clinics are likely to face long wait times prior to obtaining an initial appointment and reduced telehealth options.

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