More than half of older adults have some form of hearing loss, impacting everyday life and significantly affecting their health and safety if left untreated. Hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss; however, many older adults fail to adjust to hearing aids and, as a result, stop using them. Now, a new hearing aid adjustment program created at the University of Missouri in the US, might significantly improve hearing aid wear time among older adults.
Older adults often tend to wait 10 to 15 years before trying a hearing aid for the first time. When they do put it on, they are overwhelmed by sounds they have not heard in a while. To help adults adjust to hearing aid use, scientists at the university developed the Hearing Aid Reintroduction (HEAR) program. HEAR is a systematically gradual method to support adjustment to hearing aids. With HEAR intervention, the duration of hearing aid use increases slowly from one hour on day one to 10 hours on day 30. In addition, sound complexity also increases, beginning with sounds the house makes such as fans and the dishwasher to complex listening situations such as a restaurant or theater. The intervention currently is supported through a workbook that provides instructions, tips and encouragement. Patients are able to record their progress in a journal as well as questions or concerns for their audiologist.
To test the success of the HEAR intervention, scientists enlisted individuals who have previously tried hearing aids but failed to adjust and those who were trying hearing aids for the first time.
"We found an 80 percent increase in patients' hearing aid wear time due to the intervention," the researcher team said. "The patients also were able to tolerate more complex noises and reported more satisfaction with their hearing aids."
This data will be used to help the researchers create a complementary app, which will allow patients and audiologists to communicate more effectively regarding hearing aid use. Patients will be able to input their progress, which will be saved to their digital health records for their audiologist to view. In turn, the audiologist will be able to answer questions and send encouragement.