New options for hearing loss?

Research Review

Over 25% of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have a hearing loss.  That number only increases as people age.  Deciding to get a hearing aid can be a difficult decision, especially as the equipment is expensive, and opinions vary so much on if hearing aids work.  

This week I came across a new study researching user satisfaction with aids bought both over-the-counter and through an audiologist.  Although they are not yet available, there’s currently a bill in Congress that may allow people with a mild-moderate hearing loss to buy over-the-counter hearing aids. 

If you or a loved one is affected by hearing loss, I highly recommend you read the study: "The Effects of Service-Delivery Model and Purchase Price on Hearing-Aid Outcomes in Older Adults".
Hearing Loss Study Infographic

Key points included:

  • Participants were age 55-79, highly educated, and all had a mild-moderate hearing loss
  • Everyone tried out high-end digital behind-the-ear hearing aids for both ears.
  • 3 main groups were compared:
  1. Audiologists using best practices
  2. A “placebo” hearing aid setting
  3. Do-it-yourself with OTC hearing aids

Results:

Which Group had the most effective hearing aids?  

Audiologists using “best practices” and the Do-It-Yourselfers both scored well on objective tests.  Their hearing aids worked well.

Which Group was most satisfied?

The Audiologist group was overall more satisfied with their hearing aids and were more likely to purchase them than any of the other groups.   Working directly with an audiologist following best practices made a difference for who decided to adopt hearing aids to improve their hearing.  

Did the price of the hearing aids make a difference in this study?

No!  For the clients who decided to purchase hearing aids from this study, the cost of didn’t make a difference.

 

What now?  

hearing aids support communication in Green Bay Wisconsin

What should you do if think you may have a hearing loss?

Best advice is still to see an audiologist and get a hearing evaluation to find out your current hearing levels, as well as strategies that may work the best for your individual situation. An audiologist can find the best fit, program, and options for you. An audiologist will also be able to tell you what type of hearing loss you have, and possibly offer solutions other than a hearing aid to address your concerns.  It is recommended that you see an independent audiologist to truly find the best solution for YOUR individual needs, not the audiologist at a hearing aid retailer.  

 

If you are communicating with someone with a hearing loss, a few small changes can make a big difference.  

  • Check that their hearing device has batteries, works, and is on at a comfortable level.

  • Wait until you are directly in front of the person and have their attention before you begin speaking.  Be on the same level, face to face if possible.

  • Reduce/eliminate background noise.  The TV, busy restaurants are especially difficult.

  • Use gestures, objects, and body language to help communicate your message.

  • When introducing yourself, try leading with how they know you “I’m Betty’s daughter, my name is Sue”.

  • Use a slow, but natural rate.

  • Higher pitches are often harder to hear, so try to use a lower voice, if possible.

 

Resources:

https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-hearing

Humes, L.E., Rogers, S.E., Quigley, T.M., Main, A.K., Kinney, D.L. & Herring, C. (2017). The Effects of Service-Delivery Model and Purchase Price on Hearing-Aid Outcomes in Older Adults: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.  Am J Audiol, 26(1), 53-79. Doi: 10.1044/2017_AJA-16-0111.

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/04/24/524946910/is-it-time-for-hearing-aids-to-be-sold-over-the-counter

http://www.audiology.org/advocacy/fda-announces-immediate-changes-regarding-medical-waiver-requirement-adults-purchasing

http://www.hearingloss.org/content/otc-hearing-aids