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Fitting Hearing Aids Using Clinical Measures of Loudness Discomfort Levels: An Evidence-Based Review of Effectiveness
07 August 2020 (online)
Clinical measurement of the loudness discomfort level (LDL) historically has been part of the hearing aid fitting procedure, and this clinical practice remains popular today. LDL measurements also are recommended in contemporary hearing aid fitting protocols. Yet, surveys show that many hearing aid users are dissatisfied with the loudness of their hearing aids. In this evidence-based review article, we evaluate the effectiveness of clinical LDL measurements. Specifically, we asked the question "Are the clinical measurements of LDL for adult patients predictive of aided acceptance and satisfaction of loudness for high inputs in the real world?" Nearly 200 articles were reviewed; three met the criteria set forth in this review. The evidence supported using unaided LDLs for selecting the maximum real-ear output of hearing aids. No study using aided LDLs or aided loudness verification met the criteria. The level of the evidence for the three articles using unaided LDLs was low; no higher than Level 4. The limited number of studies, the level of evidence, and the statistical power of the studies prevents us from making a strong recommendation concerning the clinical use of LDL measures. Additional research in this area, especially research employing randomized controlled trials would be a useful addition to this body of literature.