Hearing Aids

Over-the-counter (OTC) personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) may be useful lower-cost alternatives to hearing aids (HAs) for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss, a study publish online May 16 in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery shows. The results indicate that basic and premium HAs were not superior to the PSAP in patients with mild to moderate hearing impairment, write Young Sang Cho, MD, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea, and colleagues.

Related hearing loss

However, if hearing loss is more severe, then HAs, especially premium HAs; which should be consider as an option to manage hearing loss, they write. Age relate hearing loss is common, and HAs are the cornerstone of its management. However, research shows that hearing loss often goes untreated; fewer than 20% of US adults with hearing loss report using HAs. The high cost of HAs is a substantial barrier to their use.

However, no comprehensive studies have been conduct on the performance of PSAPs, and there have been no reports regarding results of laboratory testing or responses by patients to questionnaires. With this in mind, Cho and colleagues prospectively evaluate the comparative effectiveness of a PSAP, a basic HA, and a premium HA in various acoustic environments for patients with mild, moderate, and moderately severe hearing loss.

Their study include 56 adults (mean age, 56 years) who had never previously use a PSAP. All participants underwent four unaided clinical hearing tests using each of the three devices, and they complete a self-rating questionnaire. The researchers used speech intelligibility in noise testing to evaluate speech perception and a dual-task paradigm and pupillometry to evaluate listening effort. The self-rating patient questionnaire was use to evaluate sound quality and user preference.

The premium device

However, for those with moderately severe hearing loss; the researchers find that the premium HA perform better than the other two devices on most tests (Cohen d = 0.60 – 1.59); 70% of these patients preferred the premium device. The authors advise against applying these results to all HAs and PSAPs; because the study did not examine different brands of each device type and did not include any long-term follow-up.

In an accompanying editorial, Nicholas S. Reed, AuD, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland; so emphasizes that these results support previous data suggesting; so that adults with mild to moderate hearing loss may benefit from OTC devices. The results also reinforce that these devices may not benefit patients; so with more severe hearing loss, he says. According to Reed; so the study advances understanding of PSAPs from efficacy research into effectiveness work.

The investigators took an important step in device research, he says; so by moving away from traditional measures and into subclinical listening effort tasks; so that could be more sensitive to differences between conditions. He notes that OTC hearing devices could reshape hearing care in this country by removing barriers to hearing care; also possibly by encouraging consumer technology companies to join the HA market, thus improving access and affordability of devices.