Hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss in adults

Ferguson MA, et al. | Hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss in adults Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 9. | Published online 25th September 2017

This study reviewed the evidence on the effects that hearing aids have on everyday life in adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. Authors were interested in (1) a person’s ability to take part in everyday situations, (2) general health-related quality of life, (3) ability to listen to other people, and (4) harm, such as pain or over-exposure to noise.

Background

The main goal of hearing aids is to reduce the impact of hearing loss and to improve a person’s ability to take part in everyday life. Although hearing aids are the most common technology for adults with hearing loss and are in widespread use, it is not clear how beneficial they are.

Study characteristics

The evidence is up to date to 23 March 2017. Authors found five clinical studies involving 825 adults with mild to moderate hearing loss who were randomly given either hearing aids, no hearing aids or placebo hearing aids. Studies involved older adults with the average age within studies between 69 and 83 years. The duration of the studies was between six weeks and six months.

Key results

Evidence was found in three studies that hearing aids have a large beneficial effect in improving the ability of adults with mild to moderate hearing loss to take part in everyday situations. Hearing aids have a small beneficial effect in improving general health-related quality of life, such as physical, social, emotional and mental well-being, and have a large effect in improving the ability to listen to other people.

Only one study attempted to measure harms due to hearing aids. None were reported.

Conclusions

This review found that hearing aids improve the ability of adults with mild to moderate hearing loss to take part in everyday life, their general quality of life and their ability to listen to other people. If an adult with mild to moderate hearing loss seeks help for their hearing difficulties, hearing aids are an effective clinical option. It is important that future studies measure benefits consistently and report benefits separately for different age groups, genders, levels of hearing loss and types of hearing aids.

Hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss in adults:

 

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Older adults’ experiences with a new hearing aid

Jorunn Solheim, Caryl Gay & Louise Hickson | Older adults’ experiences and issues with hearing aids in the first six months after hearing aid fitting | International Journal of Audiology | Published online: 27 Sep 2017

Objectives: This study describes older adults’ experiences with a new hearing aid (HA) during the first 6 months after fitting.

Design: In a longitudinally designed study, experiences and issues with HA use were assessed at a six-month follow-up appointment in individual structured interviews lasting 30 min. Associations between HA experiences and demographic factors, degree of hearing loss, and an objective measure of HA use (datalogging) were also examined.

Study sample: 181 HA recipients (≥60 years) attending a six-month follow-up appointment.

Results: Participants reported an average of 1.4 issues with HA use, the most common pertaining to the earmold (26.5%), sound quality (26.0%) and handling (25.5%). Participants who reported at least one issue had fewer hours of use per day, but were not more likely to be non-users (<30 min/day). Non-users (15.5%) were more likely to report no need for a HA and handling issues.

Conclusions: Most older adults use their HAs regardless of reported issues. However, handling issues and no perceived need may interfere with HA usage among some adults with hearing impairment. Moreover, reported issues were associated with less frequent HA use. Follow-up support is thus important to address issues that may interfere with optimal use.

Change in loneliness after intervention with cochlear implants or hearing aids

The aim of the study was to investigate the impact of hearing aid (HA) and cochlear implant (CI) use on loneliness in adults| The Laryngoscope

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Image source: Joonas Tikkanen – Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

One hundred and thirteen adults, aged ≥ 50 years, with postlingual hearing loss and receiving routine clinical care at a tertiary academic medical center, were evaluated with the University of California at Los Angeles Loneliness Scale before and 6 and 12 months after intervention with HAs or CIs. Change in score was assessed using linear mixed effect models adjusted for age; gender; education; and history of hypertension, diabetes, and smoking.

Treatment of hearing loss with CIs results in a significant reduction in loneliness symptoms. This improvement was not observed with HAs. We observed differential effects of treatment depending on the baseline loneliness score, with the greatest improvements observed in individuals with the most loneliness symptoms at baseline.

Full reference: Contrera, K.J. et al. (2017) Change in loneliness after intervention with cochlear implants or hearing aids. The Laryngoscope. Vol. 127 (Issue 8) pp. 1885–1889

Hearing aids for otitis media with effusion: Do children use them?

This study investigated what proportion of children referred for hearing aids actually receive them, and whether children use them | International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology

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Image source: Kristof Borkowski – Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

ENT surgeons may refer children with otitis media with effusion (OME) to audiology for consideration of hearing aids. They are an option for the treatment of OME, but are only effective if the child actually wears them.

During the study period, there were 202 referrals of children to audiology, of which 70 (34.7%) were for consideration of hearing aids for OME. Of these 70 referred children, 37 (52.9%) were not fitted with hearing aids due to normal audiometry (23), asymptomatic mild hearing loss (7), nonattendance (3), clinical decision to just monitor hearing (1), parental decline (2), and unrecorded reason (1). A total of 38 children (including direct access patients) were fitted with hearing aids for OME. Majority (36/38) of children issued aids used them, 16 all day, 7 only at school, 1 only at home, 3 only when needed, and 9 used them for an unspecified duration; 1 child’s use of hearing aids was unrecorded, and 1 child refused to use it. 21 were fitted bilaterally and 17 unilaterally. 37 were behind the ear aids and 1 a BAHA softband.

A third of referrals to paediatric audiology by ENT are for consideration of hearing aids for OME. Only about half of children referred to audiology for hearing aids for OME actually receive them, as by the time they see audiology the hearing loss has frequently resolved or is asymptomatic so that aiding is unwarranted. Once fitted, they appear to be well accepted. Hearing aids have fair utilization in children fitted with them for OME.

Full reference: Gan, R.W.C. et al. (2017) Hearing aids for otitis media with effusion: Do children use them? International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. Vol. 99 (August) pp. 117–119.

Tinnitus Management

Whereas hearing aids have long been considered effective for providing relief from tinnitus, controlled clinical studies evaluating this premise have been very limited |  Journal of the American Academy of Audiology

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Image source: jen collins – Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to systematically determine the relative efficacy of conventional receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids (HA), the same hearing aids with a sound generator (HA+SG), and extended-wear, deep fit hearing aids (EWHA), to provide relief from tinnitus through a randomized controlled trial. Each of these ear-level devices was a product of Phonak, LLC.

Results: There were 18 participants in each of the HA and EWHA groups and 19 in the HA+SG group. Gender, age, and baseline TFI severity were balanced across treatment groups. Nearly all participants had a reduction in tinnitus symptoms during the study. The average TFI change (improvement) from baseline was 21 points in the HA group, 31 points in the EWHA group, and 33 points in the HA+SG group. A “clinically significant” improvement in reaction to tinnitus (at least 13-point reduction in TFI score) was seen by 67% of HA, 82% of EWHA, and 79% of HA+SG participants. There were no statistically significant differences in the extent to which the devices reduced TFI scores. Likewise, the hearing-specific questionnaires and QuickSIN showed improvements following use of the hearing aids but these improvements did not differ across device groups.

Conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to conclude that any of these devices offers greater relief from tinnitus than any other one tested. However, all devices appear to offer some improvement in the functional effects of tinnitus.

Full reference: Henry, J.A. et al. (2017) Tinnitus Management: Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing Extended-Wear Hearing Aids, Conventional Hearing Aids, and Combination Instruments. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. Vol. 28 (no. 6) pp. 546-561

Talking about cost in audiology consultations with older adults

Financial cost is a barrier for many older adults in their decision to obtain hearing aids (HAs) | International Journal of Audiology 

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Objective: This study aimed to examine conversations about the cost of HAs in detail within initial audiology appointments.

Results: Audiologists and clients displayed interactional difficulty during conversations about cost. Clients often had emotional responses to the cost of HAs, which were not attended to by audiologists. It was typical for audiologists to present one HA cost option at a time, which led to multiple rejections from clients which made the interactions difficult. Alternatively, when audiologists offered multiple cost options at once this led to a smoother interaction.

Conclusions: Audiologists and clients were observed to have difficulty talking about HA costs. Offering clients multiple HA cost options at the same time can engage clients in the decision-making process and lead to a smoother interaction between audiologist and client in the management phase of appointments.

Full reference: Ekberg, K. et al. (2017) Difficult conversations: talking about cost in audiology consultations with older adults. International Journal of Audiology. Published online: 23 Jun 2017

The Importance of Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids to the Future of Hearing Health Care

Hearing loss has often been perceived as an inevitable, and hence, relatively inconsequential part of aging. In other words, if hearing loss is so common, how could it be important?

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Image source: bazzadarambler – Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Over the past seven years, epidemiologic research from Johns Hopkins University, as well as from other institutions around the world, has demonstrated that hearing loss, while being a usual aspect of aging, is not without consequence. For example, these studies have shown that individuals with hearing loss are at a greater risk of developing dementia, falling, and being hospitalized.

These links are not purely by correlation or chance, but likely the result of mechanisms through which hearing loss increases the risk of these adverse outcomes. These mechanisms include the “load” that hearing loss puts on the brain, reduced auditory stimulation contributing to faster brain aging over time, and the loss of social connectedness that comes with not being able to easily communicate.

These research findings have served as a wake-up call to policymakers given that addressing hearing loss could potentially lead to real and tangible benefits that would
help reduce the risk of dementia and other important costly health outcomes.

Full reference: Lin, F.R. (2017) Where We Are and Where We’re Headed: The Importance of Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids to the Future of Hearing Health Care. Hearing Loss Magazine. May/June 2017 p.18-23