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Subjective Measures of Hearing Aid Benefit in the NIDCD/VA Clinical Trial

Haskell, George B.; Noffsinger, Douglas; Larson, Vernon D.; Williams, David W.; Dobie, Robert A.; Rogers, Janette L.


Objective Subjective measures of performance were assessed on three different hearing aid circuits as part of a large clinical trial. These measurements included the Profile of Hearing Aid Performance and a subjective ranking of individual preference.

Design A multi-center, double-masked clinical trial of hearing aids was conducted at eight VA Medical Centers. Three hearing aid circuits, a linear peak-clipper, a linear compression limiter and a wide dynamic range compressor, were investigated. The experimental design was a three-period, three-treatment crossover design. Subjects (N = 360) were stratified by site and randomized to one of six sequences for the hearing aid circuits. All fittings were binaural and involved a 3-mo trial with each of the three circuits. All subjective measures were administered for unaided and aided conditions at the end of each trial period.

Results While all of the circuits resulted in improved scores on the aided versus the unaided PHAP, there were few conditions in which one circuit outperformed the others. An exception was the aversiveness of sound subscale where the peak clipper frequently scored worse than either the compression limiter or the wide dynamic range compressor. In the subjective ranking scale the compression limiter received more first place rankings than the other two circuits, especially for one subgroup of patients with moderate flat hearing loss.

Conclusions All circuits were perceived as beneficial by these subjects in most situations. The peak clipper scored worse on aversiveness of sound than did the other two circuits for most subjects, while the compression limiter seemed to have a slight advantage in subjective rankings. Most subjects perceived considerable aided benefit in situations involving background noise and reverberation, situations where hearing aid benefit is often questioned.

VA Medical Center, Iowa City, Iowa (G.B.H., J.L.R.), and Washington, DC (V.D.L.); VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System (D.N.), Los Angeles, California; Howard Leight Industries (V.D.L.), San Diego, California; VA Hines Cooperative Studies Program Coordinating Center (D.W.W.), Hines, Illinois; and National Institute on Deafness and other Communicative Disorders (R.A.D.), National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

Address for correspondence: William G. Henderson, Ph.D., 8501 E. Alameda Avenue, Apt. 1328, Denver, CO 80230.

Received February 11, 2002 accepted March 4, 2002

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.