Participants reported a small increase in benefit on the IOI for four out of seven questions, with a statistically insignificant small improvement in overall IOI-HA score for the new hearing aid [t(17)= 0.91, p=0.37; 22.6 (SD 5.5) versus 22.1 (SD 5.7); Fig. 1]. The majority of participants (82%) chose to keep their new hearing aid at the completion of the study (Fig. 2).
Participants were mostly positive in their reports of the new hearing aid. Positive themes included general non-specific benefit (“I think they are a lot better,” said patient 7; “I'd say they're very good, if you can get them, go for it,” said patient 9), as well as specific benefits of improved speech recognition (“I was absolutely amazed at some of the things I could hear—I could hear speech from two rooms away,” said patient 5). Other commonly reported benefits included listening to television and music (patient 2 “found these ones were better actually when it comes to listening to the tele and listening to music.”) as well as environmental sounds (“Once I'd started with these I heard noises in my car I've never heard before,” said patient 9).
Several participants independently mentioned that the new hearing aids seemed more “powerful” and provided them with increased amplification relative to their current instruments. Patient statements include:
“These new aids are very powerful and noticeably so,” said patient 10.
“The aids are more powerful, I like the aids for that … I can hear people outside the room—rarely before I could pick up that, so it is a very, very, very powerful hearing aid,” said patient 3.
Most participants reported no problem with operating the new hearing aid although some reported difficulties with volume control (“The only thing I can't see properly is if I've moved the numbers, you can't see the number, unless it's my eyesight. The numbers on the wheel you can't see very clearly. It could be doing a little bit heavier, the color,” said patient 11; “In terms of the actual aids themselves, the wheel mechanism, always catching it, I just do that with my hair, it turns itself off, so it's really got quite a sensitive wheel on it,” said patient 4).
Users described how the volume control was an important feature for them to turn the amplification up or down in specific situations. Feedback associated with hearing aid was also a commonly reported difficulty, so was the short battery life.
Most participants successfully made the transition to a new hearing aid and elected to keep the new device. This is a positive observation for a group of hearing aid users who are generally perceived by clinicians to have greater challenges when switching from one hearing aid to another.
The perceived benefit in speech recognition and general benefits were commonly reported. Several participants described the new hearing aids as more “powerful.” To hearing aid users with severe to profound hearing loss, the change from one gain setting to a new one, both in terms of the amount of amplification and frequency shape, may be perceivable. A new gain prescription may warrant the need for optimal seal and feedback prevention.
Difficulties adjusting to the new hearing aids included feedback and hard-to-use design features, particularly the volume wheel. These difficulties might be addressed at the clinical fitting session by giving increased attention to molds and sound leakage, and providing detailed instructions on how to handle the new hearing aid. In the present study, new molds were not made for the new hearing aids per the study protocol. The decision not to make new molds was based on wanting to compare the sound quality and signal processing of the current versus the new hearing aid without adding extra advantage or disadvantage to either hearing aid. The feedback experienced by almost half of the participants pointed to a need for new and better fitting ear molds and tubing. Many experienced feedback and less than satisfactory fit with the new hearing aids coupled with old ear molds and tubing. Based on observations from the interviews, new ear molds are needed when changing from one super power hearing aid to another to secure optimal conditions for feedback management and user comfort. Regarding the device's design, having the volume control on the ear caused issues for some users. Exploring other means of volume control may be beneficial for the adaptation of the new hearing aid. These practical issues of feedback and good fit may represent a more substantial challenge to the successful uptake of a new hearing aid than the actual listening experience.Copyright © 2017 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.