Hearing aid management problems and skills

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A large number of hearing aid owners self-identify as having hearing loss, yet do not seek treatment, drop out of treatment programmes, or fail to use their hearing aids. Up to one third of older adults do not use their hearing aids regularly and thus are living with unresolved hearing and communication difficulties. This perpetuates the disabling impact on interpersonal communication, psychological well-being, quality of life and economic independence.

A project at Ear Science is investigating these issues. As part of her PhD project, [Bec Bennett] has developed two new surveys: 1) to identify common problems associated with hearing aid use, and 2) to evaluate hearing aid management skills.

These surveys have been developed through a series of focus group sessions with hearing aid owners and clinicians. These identified and described the common problems that arise following hearing aid acquisition, as well as the actions and inaction taken by hearing aid owners in response to these problems.

People with hearing loss are likely to benefit from the inclusion of these two new surveys into clinical practice for a number of reasons.

  • They will inform clinicians as to the problems each patient is having, thus facilitating personalised rehabilitation programs.
  • The design of the survey lends itself to the opportunity for hearing aid owners to complete the survey at home, allowing them time to think about the problems they may be having in a real world environment rather than being put on the spot during a consultation appointment.
  • Clinicians will save time as the hearing aid owner will have completed the survey/s prior to the appointment; freed up time can be used for patient counselling and other aspects of care often omitted due to time constraints.

The findings that emerge from this work have the potential to influence not just Australian but global hearing healthcare policy as they highlight the current deficit in hearing aid training programs and provide a real-world tool to assist improvements in skill acquisition.

These outcomes are expected to result in social and economic benefits at an individual, community and country level. For Australia alone, the costs of hearing loss was estimated in 2005 to be $11.75 billion. The value to the nation of engaging people with a hearing loss cannot be underestimated.

Investigators:

Bec Bennett, Rob Eikelboom, Susan Tegg-Quin, Chris Brennan-Jones, Marcus Atlas

Collaborators:

Carly Meyer, University of Queensland; Ariane Laplante-Levesque, Eriksholm.

Key publications:

Bennett RJ, Meyer C, Eikelboom RH. Is clinician continuity associated with hearing aid outcomes? Journal: International Journal of Audiology. Accepted for publication April 2016.

Bennett RJ, Taljaard DS, Brennan-Jones CJ, Tegg-Quinn S, Eikelboom RH. Evaluating hearing aid handling skills: A systematic and descriptive review. International Journal of Audiology. 54(11):765-76; 2015. doi: 10.3109/14992027.2015.1052104