Over the last year, we were presented with audiology research that spanned topics related to engineering, clinical expectations, and statistical exercises for predictive or retrospective analyses. This selection of articles is representative of that diversity, highlighting articles that present new models for speech quality, describing third-party perception of hearing aid use, and several that peel away layers obscuring the complexity of adapting to new hearing aid use.
1. The Hearing Aid Effect in 2013
Hearing aid use carries stigma: this is a fact that all people with hearing loss, researchers, and audiologists understand. It’s safe to say that there is a generalized assumption that the adoption of body-worn technology will eventually erode the stigmatizing effect of hearing aid use. During this study, adults were asked to rate their perception of a person wearing several styles of ear-level devices, including hearing aids, earphones, and a Bluetooth headset. While the observed differences could be considered moderate, there were no perceived differences between a person wearing hearing aids and those not wearing hearing aids. The authors propose that this observation indicates a more positive perception of hearing aid use, as compared to earlier studies.
Rauterkus, E., & Palmer, C. (2014). The Hearing Aid Effect in 2013. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 25, 893-903.
2. Dynamic relation between working memory capacity and speech recognition in noise during the first 6 months of hearing aid use
Attempting to clearly interpret past research in the area of adaptation to new hearing aids is a complex proposition. Some studies offer conflicting results, even questioning the nature of the adaptation effect. This is one of several studies in recent years that have looked at measures of cognition as they relate to new hearing aid use. The authors find that working memory demands (a form of functional short-term memory) changed over 6-months. The implications of these observations are increased cognitive demands at the time of the first hearing aid fitting, as patients work to interpret newly audible cues.
Ng, E., Classon, E., Birgitta, L., Arlinger, S., Lunner, T., Rudner, M., & Ronnberg, J. (2014). Dynamic relation between working memory capacity and speech recognition in noise during the first 6 months of hearing aid use. Trends in Hearing, 18, 1-10.
3. Factors associated with success with hearing aids in older adults
This large-scale assessment tracked the outcomes of patients through a battery of 16 measurements, both subjective and objective. A number of valuable clinical factors were identified as linking to hearing aid success. Three of these factors stand out as providing excellent clinical insight. Firstly, the role of a supportive spouse is extremely important; secondly, the patient must be able to confidently manipulate the hearing aids themselves; finally, patients fit with hearing aids at prescriptively appropriate gains are more successful than those who are fit far below the prescription. Some of these observations have been made in previous studies but this one is the first to succinctly report them with modern hearing aids.
Hickson, L., Meyer, C., Lovelock, K., Lampert, M., & Khan, A. (2014). Factors associated with success with hearing aids in older adults. International Journal of Audiology, 53, S18-S27.
4. The Hearing-Aid Speech Quality Index (HASQI) Version 2
The optimization and verification of hearing aid signal processing algorithms is greatly eased by our ability to model (or predict) a person’s perception of changes in the processed sound. The HASQI is a tool that allows for the prediction of changes in sound quality though the comparison of two recordings, one unprocessed sample that is used as a reference and a second processed sample. This recent revision to the original HASQI works well to overcome some limitations of the first iteration.
Kates, J., & Arehart, K. (2014) The Hearing-Aid Speech Quality Index (HASQI) Version 2. Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, 62(3), 99-117.
5. A 3-pack on the acclimatization conundrum
This package of three articles is being presented as one (on the list). Individually, each offers a small but meaningful insight into the topic of adapting to new hearing aid use. As all three were published from the same lab during 2014, they offer a collective series of insights that will impact all future work in this area. In brief, the investigators sought to document acclimatization effects through several metrics, including a round of focus group interviews. Their objective observations showed mild effects of experience with hearing aids, while the focus group interviews reinforce expectations that adjusting to hearing aids is an experience that extends beyond the perception of amplified sound alone.
Dawes, P., Maslin, M., & Munro, K. (2014). ‘Getting used to’ hearing aids from the perspective of adult hearing-aid users. International Journal of Audiology, 53, 861-870.
Dawes, P., Munro, K., Kalluri, S., & Edwards, B. (2014). Auditory acclimatization and hearing aids: Late auditory evoked potentials and speech recognition following unilateral and bilateral amplification. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 135(6), 3560-3569.
Dawes, P., Munro, K., Kalluri, S., & Edwards, B. (2014). Acclimatization to Hearing Aids. Ear and Hearing, 32(2), 203-212.