Bimodal hearing has shown to improve speech recognition in quiet and in noise and to improve sound localization compared with unilateral cochlear implant (CI) use alone. Fitting the CI and hearing aid (HA) separately has been described well, but HA fitting procedures for bimodal CI users are not well researched or widely accepted. The aim of the present study was to systematically review the literature on the effect of different HA fitting strategies on auditory performance in bimodal CI users.
Original articles, written in English, were identified through systematic searches in Medline (OvidSP), Embase, Web of Science, Scopus, CINAHL, Cochrane, PubMed publisher, and Google Scholar. The quality of the studies was assessed on five aspects: methodologic quality (with the methodological index for nonrandomized studies score), number of subjects, quality of the description of contralateral hearing loss, quality of HA verification, and direct comparison of HA fitting procedures based on auditory performance.
A total of 1665 records were retrieved, of which 17 were included for systematical reviews. Critical appraisal led to three high-quality studies, 10 medium-quality studies, and four low-quality studies. The results of the studies were structured according to four topics: frequency response, frequency translation/transposition, dynamic range compression, and loudness. In general, a bimodal benefit was found in most studies, using various strategies for the HA fitting. Using a standard prescription rule such as National Acoustics Laboratory formula-non-linear 1, National Acoustics Laboratory formula-non-linear 2, or desired sensation level is a good starting point in children and adults.
Although a bimodal benefit was found in most studies, there is no clear evidence how certain choices in HA fitting contribute to optimal bimodal performance. A generally accepted HA prescription rule is an essential part of most fitting procedures used in the studies. Current evidence suggests that frequency lowering or transposition is not beneficial. Individual fine tuning based on loudness or general preference is often applied, but its additional value for auditory performance should be investigated more thoroughly. Good quality comparative studies are needed to further develop evidence-based fitting procedures in case of bimodal listening.
Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Erasmus MC, The Netherlands.
Received August 26, 2017; accepted February 6, 2018.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
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Address for correspondence: Jantien L. Vroegop, ENT Department, Erasmus Medical Center, Postbus 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org