This work describes the development of a manualized best-practice hearing intervention for older adults participating in the Aging and Cognitive Health Evaluation in Elders (ACHIEVE) randomized controlled clinical trial. Manualization of interventions for clinical trials is critical for assuring intervention fidelity and quality, especially in large multisite studies. The multisite ACHIEVE randomized controlled trial is designed to assess the efficacy of a hearing intervention on rates of cognitive decline in older adults. We describe the development of the manualized hearing intervention through an iterative process that included addressing implementation questions through the completion of a feasibility study (ACHIEVE-Feasibility).
Following published recommendations for manualized intervention development, an iterative process was used to define the ACHIEVE-hearing intervention elements and create an initial manual. The intervention was then delivered within the ACHIEVE-Feasibility study using one-group pre-post design appropriate for assessing questions related to implementation. Participants were recruited from the Tampa, Florida area between May 2015 and April 2016. Inclusion criteria were cognitively healthy adults aged 70 to 89 with symmetrical mild-to-moderately severe sensorineural hearing loss. The ACHIEVE-Feasibility study sought to assess the implementation of the manualized hearing intervention by: (1) confirming improvement in expected outcomes were achieved including aided speech-in-noise performance and perception of disease-specific self-report measures; (2) determining whether the participants would comply with the intervention including session attendance and use of hearing aids; and (3) determining whether the intervention sessions could be delivered within a reasonable timeframe.
The initial manualized intervention that incorporated the identified best-practice elements was evaluated for feasibility among 21 eligible participants and 9 communication partners. Post-intervention expected outcomes were obtained with speech-in-noise performance results demonstrating a significant improvement under the aided condition and self-reported measures showing a significant reduction in self-perceived hearing handicap. Compliance was excellent, with 20 of the 21 participants (95.2%) completing all intervention sessions and 19 (90.4%) returning for the 6-month post-intervention visit. Furthermore, self-reported hearing aid compliance was >8 hr/day, and the average daily hearing aid use from datalogging was 7.8 hr. Study completion was delivered in a reasonable timeframe with visits ranging from 27 to 85 min per visit. Through an iterative process, the intervention elements were refined, and the accompanying manual was revised based on the ACHIEVE-Feasibility study activities, results, and clinician and participant informal feedback.
The processes for the development of a manualized intervention described here provide guidance for future researchers who aim to examine the efficacy of approaches for the treatment of hearing loss in a clinical trial. The manualized ACHIEVE-Hearing Intervention provides a patient-centered, yet standardized, step-by-step process for comprehensive audiological assessment, goal setting, and treatment through the use of hearing aids, other hearing assistive technologies, counseling, and education aimed at supporting self-management of hearing loss. The ACHIEVE-Hearing Intervention is feasible in terms of implementation with respect to verified expected outcomes, compliance, and reasonable timeframe delivery. Our processes assure intervention fidelity and quality for use in the ACHIEVE randomized controlled trial (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03243422).