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Changing Hearing Performance and Sound Preference With Words and Expectations

Meaning Responses in Audiology

Hodgetts, William E.1,2; Aalto, Daniel1,2; Ostevik, Amberley1; Cummine, Jacqueline1

doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000634
Research Article
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Objectives: In this article, we explore two manipulations of “meaning response,” intended to either “impart” meaning to participants through the manipulation of a few words in the test instructions or to “invite” meaning by making the participant feel involved in the setting of their preferred sound.

Design: In experiment 1, 59 adults with normal hearing were randomly assigned to one of the two groups. Group 1 was told “this hearing in noise test (HINT) you are about to do is really hard,” while the second group was told “this HINT test is really easy.” In experiment 2, 59 normal-hearing adults were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Every participant was played a highly distorted sound file and given 5 mystery sliders on a computer to move as often and as much as they wished until the sound was “best” to them. They were then told we applied their settings to a new file and they needed to rate their sound settings on this new file against either (1) another participant in the study, or (2) an expert audiologist. In fact, we played them the same sound file twice.

Results: In experiment 1, those who were told the test was hard performed significantly better than the easy group. In experiment 2, a significant preference was found in the group when comparing “my setting” to “another participant.” No significant difference was found in the group comparing “my setting” to the “expert.”

Conclusions: Imparting or inviting meaning into the context of audiological outcome measurement can alter outcomes even in the absence of any additional technology or treatment. These findings lend support to a growing body of research about the many nonauditory factors including motivation, effort, and task demands that can impact performance in our clinics and laboratories.

1Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

2Institute for Reconstructive Sciences in Medicine, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Address for correspondence: Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, T6G 2G4, Alberta, Canada. E-mail: bill.hodgetts@ualberta.ca

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