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The Occlusion Effect in Unilateral versus Bilateral Hearing Aids
07 August 2020 (online)
The benefit of bilateral hearing aids is well documented, but many hearing-aid users still wear only one aid. It is plausible that the occlusion effect is part of the reason for some hearing-aid users not wearing both hearing aids. In this study we quantified the subjective occlusion effect by asking ten experienced users of bilateral hearing aids and a reference group of ten normal-hearing individuals to rate the naturalness of their own voice while reading a text sample aloud. The subjective occlusion effect was evaluated in the unilateral versus bilateral condition for a variety of vent designs in earmolds and in a custom hearing aid. The subjective occlusion effect was significantly higher for bilateral hearing aids with all vent designs with the exception of a non-occluding eartip option. The subjective occlusion effect was reduced with the more open vent designs in both the unilateral and bilateral conditions. Assuming that the occlusion effect is a barrier to bilateral hearing aid use, these results indicate that open-hearing-aid fittings can help promote the use of two aids.