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Transitioning Hearing Aid Users with Severe and Profound Loss to a New Gain/Frequency Response: Benefit, Perception, and Acceptance
06 August 2020 (online)
Background: Adults with severe and profound hearing loss tend to be long-term, full-time users of amplification who are highly reliant on their hearing aids. As a result of these characteristics, they are often reluctant to update their hearing aids when new features or signal-processing algorithms become available. Due to the electroacoustic constraints of older devices, many severely and profoundly hearing-impaired adults continue to wear hearing aids that provide more low- and mid-frequency gain and less high-frequency gain than would be prescribed by the National Acoustic Laboratories’ revised formula with profound correction factor (NAL-RP).
Purpose: To investigate the effect of a gradual change in gain/frequency response on experienced hearing-aid wearers with moderately severe to profound hearing loss.
Research Design: Double-blind, randomized controlled trial.
Study Sample: Twenty-three experienced adult hearing-aid users with severe and profound hearing loss participated in the study. Participants were selected for inclusion in the study if the gain/frequency response of their own hearing aids differed significantly from their NAL-RP prescription. Participants were assigned either to a control or to an experimental group balanced for aided ear three-frequency pure-tone average (PTA) and age.
Intervention: Participants were fitted with Siemens Artis 2 SP behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids that were matched to the gain/frequency response of their own hearing aids for a 65 dB SPL input level. The experimental group progressed incrementally to their NAL-RP targets over the course of 15 wk, while the control group maintained their initial settings throughout the study.
Data Collection and Analysis: Aided speech discrimination testing, loudness scaling, and structured questionnaires were completed at 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15 wk postfitting. A paired comparison between the old and new gain/frequency responses was completed at 1 and 15 wk postfitting. Statistical analysis was conducted to examine differences between the experimental and control groups and changes in objective performance and subjective perception over time.
Results: The results of the study showed that participants in the experimental group were subjectively accepting of the changes to their amplification characteristics, as evidenced by nonsignificant changes in the ratings of device performance over time. Perception of loudness, sound quality, speech intelligibility, and own voice volume did not change significantly throughout the study. Objectively, participants in the experimental group demonstrated poorer speech discrimination performance as the study progressed, although there was no change in objective loudness perception. According to the paired comparison, there was an overall subjective preference for the original gain/frequency response among all participants, although participants in the experimental group did show an increase in preference for the NAL-RP response by the end of the study.
Conclusions: Based on the findings of this study, we suggest that undertaking a gradual change to a new gain/frequency response with severely and profoundly hearing-impaired adults is a feasible procedure. However, we recommend that clinicians select transition candidates carefully and initiate the procedure only if there is a clinical reason for doing so. A validated prescriptive formula should be used as a transition target, and speech discrimination performance should be monitored throughout the transition.