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Are your hearing aids benefiting you?

Hearing aids are programmable devices that help amplify sounds and help a user hear better. They are available in a wide variety of styles and power to suit individual hearing needs. An audiologist programs hearing aids based on an individual's audiogram and then fine tunes it to suit their preferences. A hearing aid not only amplifies sound, but should improve ease in various listening environments, and over time help a user hear as naturally as possible.

Although the vast majority of hearing aid users claim that hearing aids have improved their overall quality of life, there are test tools to assess the amount of benefit individuals receive from their hearing devices. The International Outcome Inventory for Hearing Aids (IOI-HA) is questionnaire developed to assess outcomes of hearing aid use. It contains seven items assessing daily use, benefit, satisfaction, limitations, as well as impact on others. It is a simple questionnaire that minimizes cognitive and literary demands and can be completed by the hearing aid user.

Each item on the questionnaire has five response choices based on the targeted domain. It is spread such that the least favorable outcome (scored as 1) is on the left while the most favorable outcome (scored as 5) is on the right.

The questionnaire is self explanatory and gives hearing aid users a concrete understanding of how beneficial their hearing aids are and areas where they may need additional support. It is also important to note that hearing aid outcomes can vary largely between users. There are certain things that need to be taken into consideration when assessing benefit provided by hearing aids:

  1. Type and severity of hearing losses: In severe cases, hearing aids are provided for sound awareness rather than improve speech understanding.

  2. Previous experience with hearing aids: Long term hearing aid users are more comfortable with their hearing aids and are able to compare and understand hearing aid outcomes as opposed to novice users who may require more time to adjust to hearing aids.

  3. Unilateral versus bilateral fitting: Single sided use of hearing aid in bilateral hearing loss can affect hearing in noisy environments, localization, and fine speech discrimination.

  4. Duration of hearing loss: The duration of untreated hearing loss can have a direct impact on hearing aid benefit. The earlier a hearing loss is identified and treated, the more beneficial is the hearing aid.

Ref: Norms for the International Outcome Inventory for Hearing Aids - Cox, Alexander, Beyer (Journal of the American Academy of Audiology/Volume 14, Number 8, 2003)

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