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Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Ida Institute will fund three ambitious and timely research projects on hearing loss and rehabilitation spanning three continents in 2021.

Each year, the Ida Research Grant awards up to 10,000 USD to three projects that will strengthen the evidence base for integrating person-centered care into hearing healthcare and provide valuable insight about the efficacy of Ida methods and tools.

The winners of this year's grants will study the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on tinnitus perception, the efficacy of Ida's online Living Well tool, and the value of using an Ida Institute pediatric counseling tool in NHS clinics.

TINNITUS HEALTHCARE AFTER COVID-19

Professor Raj Shekhawat of Flinders University, Australia, began his research into the impact of the pandemic on tinnitus in 2020. Nearly a third of those who responded to his online survey said their tinnitus had worsened, with stress, anxiety, a changed soundscape, and a lack of distractions named as key contributing factors.

“This grant will enable us to roll the survey out further and reach a much wider population," said Professor Shekhawat. “The idea is to get data from as wide a community as possible." Professor Shekhawat will lead an international team of researchers on the Ida-funded project.

The project is titled: COVID-19 and Tinnitus: Implementing Ida's Online Tools to Enhance Person-Centered Care.

The initial survey will be followed up by interviews and focus groups to capture a more detailed picture of the impacts.

“This phase will be very valuable in getting clear themes about the needs of the patient community post-COVID-19 and their vision for tinnitus healthcare," said Professor Shekhawat.

Practical insights about how that care should look in the future will be gained through the second part of the study, which will assess the value of using the Ida Institute's tinnitus counseling tools in clinical practice in Australia and the UK.

AUDIOGRAM FOR CHILDREN

My Hearing Explained for Children is a conversation guide launched by the Ida Institute in 2020 to help pediatric clinicians explain audiogram results in everyday language.

Dr. Jacqueline Young, Clinical Scientist at the University Hospitals Southampton NHS Trust, UK, is lead researcher on the first project to study the efficacy of this tool: 'My Hearing Explained for Children': An evaluation of the tool in NHS clinical practice.

“We are interested in involving children in clinical discussion, so that audiologists can provide information to suit their needs and tailored to their understanding of their condition," said Dr. Young. “We are keen to see if this tool allows this to be achieved in a time-efficient way that is satisfactory for children, families, and clinicians."

Several Ida counseling tools for teenagers are already in use in the NHS Audiology Department at Southampton, but Dr. Young's interest was piqued by My Hearing Explained, which she sees as a very flexible tool.

“It should be fairly quick to administer, and it seems suitable for younger children as well as teenagers both with and without hearing aids."

IMPACT OF IDA COUNSELING TOOL LIVING WELL​

A team of researchers in Athens is studying the efficacy of the online tool Living Well with first-time users of hearing aids being treated at the first public audiology clinic providing hearing aid fitting services in Greece. The inclusion of a control group will ensure any specific impacts of the tool can be identified.

Audiologist and Speech and Language Therapist Evgenia Vassou is leading the research project, which is titled: Randomized control trial for the efficacy of Ida “Living Well" online counseling tool in first-time adult users with hearing loss.

Vassou hopes the study will lay the groundwork for further implementation of Ida tools in clinical practice across Greece and provide an evidence base for the continuing development of public audiology services.

She is particularly interested in Living Well due to the tool's adaptability.

“It can be used from the first appointment throughout the whole period monitoring a patient with hearing loss," she said. “It serves as a dynamic tool, which has the ability to adapt according to the different communication situations and needs of the hearing impaired person."

The three 2021 Ida Research Grant projects will be completed by September 2022. For more information about previously funded projects, visit the Research Grant page.​

Friday, July 2, 2021

As signs of hearing loss build over time, frequent misses and mistakes can take a toll on workers and their employers in the form of reduced productivity. In its first annual "Hearing Workplace" survey, TruHearing surveyed working individuals and explored the impact of untreated hearing loss on their productivity. The study found that almost all respondents reported significant challenges to doing their jobs prior to wearing hearing aids.

Types of productivity issues varied, with "asking co-workers to repeat what they said'' topping the list (87%), followed by "frequently missing parts of the conversation" (84%), "difficulty in trying to hear" (78%) and "difficulty following conversation" (77%). 37% of those surveyed said they lost more than five hours a week making up for these types of challenges, and nearly 20% said they lost more than 10.

"Seeing the impact of untreated hearing loss in terms of hours lost reinforces the strong argument for employers to offer hearing health benefits, and to provide encouragement for employees to seek help," said Tommy Macdonald, CEO, TruHearing. "When employees get the hearing treatment they need, it boosts the employee's health and well-being, and the employer's bottom line through productivity gains."

According to a recent survey by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), more than half (51%) of adults report having hearing problems, but only 11% of those respondents have sought treatment. TruHearing's survey identified barriers to seeking care by exploring concerns faced by employees prior to their treatment. By far, the top concern was cost (85%), followed by adjustment to the hearing aids (45%) and stigma (28%). Only 12% were concern-free, demonstrating a valuable opportunity for employers to step in with education and resources to make the process of obtaining hearing loss treatment more readily accepted, easier, and within reach financially.

According to a 2018 Hearing Tracker research, the average price paid for hearing aids was $4,744 per pair. TruHearing offers a range of hearing benefit options through its health plan partners and directly to employers – all of which provide significant savings on hearing exams and hearing aids to both employers and employees. For more information, visit  https://www.truhearing.com/for-health-plans-benefit-administrators/.

Editor's note: The original material was provided by TruHearing. The accuracy of information in this press release is the responsibility of the source, and opinions expressed are not necessarily the views of The Hearing Journal. Read more at bit.ly/Hjbreakingnews.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Alango Technologies, Ltd. has announced that OEMs and ODMs will now be able to license the same technologies that power the acclaimed BeHear® Bluetooth assistive hearing headsets. By offering self-fit hearing personalization in True Wireless Stereo and other designs, OEMs can gain a competitive edge.

In a recent report, the World Health Organization indicates that there are now 333 million people with untreated, disabling hearing loss. The number is growing due to high noise exposure and listening to excessively loud music for extended periods.

People would be amenable to hearing help in a fashionable and affordable Bluetooth headset instead of a medical device. An efficient hearable with hearing self-test eliminates repeat visits to the audiologist. Not just a solution for voice, but a full-featured consumer audio device with leading-edge components, delivering full spectrum sound quality for both speech and music.

Industry leaders have recognized the potential market value in health and wellness hearables. Apple's addition of "Conversation Boost" to the AirPods Pro is an example of integrating hearing health into the consumer electronics realm. Incidentally, StrategyAnalytics forecasts TWS earbuds sales to hit 1 billion pairs by 2024. Other companies are executing their own strategies to prepare for the hearing revolution: Sonova acquired Sennheiser's consumer division; BOSE has released self-fit hearing aids; and GN has released hearing aids under the Jabra brand.

Alango's Hearing Enhancement Package (HEP) offers consumer-tested, field-proven personalized hearing amplification technology to power the coming wave of hearable devices. This software suite grants users the ability to easily custom fit and fine-tune the hearing amplification in minutes with a one-time, self-administered hearing assessment. Once fitting is complete, all sounds are personalized according to the user's hearing profile—including live sounds, streamed audio, and mobile phone calls. Additional technologies for sound personalization can also be integrated, such as situational awareness, to pass important sounds through while listening to audio, and the ability to adjust the volume and spectrum of the audio depending on ambient noise conditions, automatically.

"Several years ago, I recognized the potential of bringing hearing enhancement to the masses in an affordable consumer electronics form-factor," said Dr. Alexander Goldin, founder, and CEO of Alango Technologies. "The prospect of helping people in this huge underserved market led to the development of our hearing personalization technologies and the creation of BeHear, launched in 2018. The invaluable experience of developing successful proof-of-concept products has uniquely positioned us with the expertise to make these technologies available to consumer electronics companies interested in providing hearing enhancement and wellness solutions to their customers."

Semiconductor manufacturers considering offering personalized hearing functionality to their customers are invited to partner with Alango. Likewise, Original Equipment Manufacturers interested in integrating HEP into their products are welcome to contact Alango for more information.

Editor's note: The original material was provided by Alango. The accuracy of information in this press release is the responsibility of the source, and opinions expressed are not necessarily the views of The Hearing Journal. Read more at bit.ly/Hjbreakingnews.

Friday, July 2, 2021

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs recommended that Audien, LLC discontinue the following claims for its rechargeable hearing aid:

  • "Rechargeable Hearing Aids for $89/pair*"
  • "Similar technology to $5000 hearing aids"
  • "Can be used for Tinnitus management"

These claims, which appeared in internet advertising, were challenged by NAD as part of the independent non-profit organization's routine monitoring program.

Audien promotes its product as an inexpensive rechargeable hearing aid with a technology similar to expensive hearing aids. Additionally, the statements on its website represent that the Audien product can help to manage tinnitus (often referred to as ringing in the ears). NAD was concerned that consumers who may be experiencing hearing loss or tinnitus and who are facing financial hardship during this pandemic will be especially interested in the significant cost savings Audien advertises and reasonably believe that Audien's product is a regulated medical device similar to the more expensive hearing aids (which cost, on average, from $1,500 to thousands of dollars).

NAD noted that hearing aids, which are usually programmed to address an individual's degree of hearing loss across sound frequencies, are medical devices that cannot be purchased over-the-counter and are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In contrast, a personal sound amplification product is an unregulated wearable electronic product intended for non-hearing-impaired consumers to amplify sounds in certain environments, such as for hunting or other recreational activities.

The advertiser did not provide any evidence to support its claims, however, Audien maintained that it discloses the limitations to all the challenged claims. NAD determined that these disclosures, located in the "Definitions and Disclaimers" section at the bottom of Audien's website homepage, contradict the main claims and are otherwise insufficient. For instance: 

  • With regard to the claim "rechargeable hearing aids for $89/pair*," Audien's disclaimer does not inform consumers that its "hearing aid" is not a medical device that is regulated and approved by the FDA. Further, Audien did not provide evidence to support its "rechargeable" claim.
  • Regarding the claim "similar technology to $5000 hearing aids," the disclosure states that Audien's device is similar to $5,000 hearing aids only as to "standard items" (microphone, rechargeable batteries, chip, and speaker). However, consumers understand that prescription/regulated hearing aids are sophisticated devices and will reasonably believe that Audien's product will have similar sophisticated technology comparable to those more expensive hearing aids, not what Audien refers to as "standard items."
  • With regard to the claim "can be used for tinnitus management," the disclosure states that the claim refers to feedback provided by thousands of Audien Hearing's customers. NAD noted that this is a health-related claim and should be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Audien cannot use consumer feedback to substantiate the claim that its product can be used to manage tinnitus.

Further, NAD noted that even if the challenged claims could be qualified, the disclosures were not conspicuous and consumers would likely not see or read them. In the absence of any supporting evidence, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue all the challenged claims.

During the proceeding, the advertiser informed NAD that it had permanently discontinued other challenged express claims, including:

  • "The Best Rechargeable Hearing Aid"
  • "Audiologists #1 Recommended online hearing aid"
  • "Best hearing aid for tinnitus management"

In reliance on the advertiser's representation that it has permanently discontinued these claims, NAD did not review the claims on their merits. These voluntarily discontinued claims will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended their discontinuance and the advertiser agreed to comply.  

In its advertiser statement, Audien stated that it "agrees to comply with NAD's recommendations."

Editor's note: The original material was provided by BBB National Programs. The accuracy of information in this press release is the responsibility of the source, and opinions expressed are not necessarily the views of The Hearing Journal. Read more at bit.ly/Hjbreakingnews.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The use of transparent masks during communication increases comprehension of speech by about 10% for people with hearing loss and people with normal hearing, according to a study published in the journal Ear and Hearing.

The study was conducted at the University of Texas in Dallas (USA), with the participation of Regina Tangerino, a professor at the University of São Paulo's Bauru Dental School (FOB-USP) in Brazil, and with support from São Paulo Research Foundation - FAPESP.

"Our findings show that wearing a transparent mask can facilitate communication for everyone, minimizing stress and improving interaction. Protection obviously has to be the primary concern, and no clear models with proven effectiveness are sold in Brazil right now," Tangerino told.

In the US, she explained, two models of mask with a see-through portion in the mouth area have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "One of our aims is calling attention to the importance of the topic," she said.

The study began early in the pandemic, in 2020, when the group posted on the internet a set of videos lasting 40 minutes, with Tangerino voicing several utterances against background noise without a mask, wearing a mask with a clear mouth panel, and wearing an opaque fabric mask.

The study used 154 volunteers recruited via social media or by email. They were divided into three groups based on whether they had normal hearing, or confirmed or suspected hearing loss (with or without cochlear implants or hearing aids). They were invited to watch the videos in a quiet place and to type what they understood after each sentence. They also had to rate their level of confidence in responding and how intensely they had to concentrate to understand what was said. Each volunteer's score was computed at the end.

On average, the volunteers in all three groups correctly understood 83.8% of the sentences spoken without a mask, 68.9% of utterances with a see-through mask, and 58.9% with an opaque mask.

"The difference of 10 percentage points [between the latter two averages] is statistically significant. This benefit applies to more than just comprehension: the participants also felt more self-confident and were able to follow what was said with less effort when the see-through mask was used," Tangerino said. "In another study, conducted in the UK with 460 participants, the researchers noted that opaque masks influenced fatigue, anxiety and emotions in both listeners and speakers."

VISUAL CUES

To find out if the difference in comprehension between transparent and opaque masks was due to visual cues such as lip reading, acoustic differences between the recordings, or the tendency for some masks to muffle sound, a follow-up study using audio only was conducted with 29 volunteers, who were not told which sentences were recorded with or without a mask.

"In this case, the average performance was actually worse for sentences spoken with a clear mask than with an opaque mask, confirming the significance of visual cues in the first study. They helped listeners surmount the problem of muffled sound when a mask is worn," Tangerino said.

Production of transparent masks certified by ANVISA, the national health surveillance agency, should be stimulated in Brazil, she added. Currently, the only see-through type available is a vinyl mask, considered insufficiently effective to block transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Editor's note: The original material ​was provided by the São Paulo Research Foundation. The accuracy of information in this press release is the responsibility of the source, and opinions expressed are not necessarily the views of The Hearing Journal. Read more at bit.ly/Hjbreakingnews.