Survey of Current Practice in the Fitting and Fine-Tuning of Common Signal-Processing Features in Hearing Aids for Adults

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Abstract

Background:

Current guidelines for adult hearing aid fittings recommend the use of a prescriptive fitting rationale with real-ear verification that considers the audiogram for the determination of frequency-specific gain and ratios for wide dynamic range compression. However, the guidelines lack recommendations for how other common signal-processing features (e.g., noise reduction, frequency lowering, directional microphones) should be considered during the provision of hearing aid fittings and fine-tunings for adult patients.

Purpose:

The purpose of this survey was to identify how audiologists make clinical decisions regarding common signal-processing features for hearing aid provision in adults.

Research Design:

An online survey was sent to audiologists across the United States. The 22 survey questions addressed four primary topics including demographics of the responding audiologists, factors affecting selection of hearing aid devices, the approaches used in the fitting of signal-processing features, and the strategies used in the fine-tuning of these features.

Study Sample:

A total of 251 audiologists who provide hearing aid fittings to adults completed the electronically distributed survey. The respondents worked in a variety of settings including private practice, physician offices, university clinics, and hospitals/medical centers.

Data Collection and Analysis:

Data analysis was based on a qualitative analysis of the question responses. The survey results for each of the four topic areas (demographics, device selection, hearing aid fitting, and hearing aid fine-tuning) are summarized descriptively.

Results:

Survey responses indicate that audiologists vary in the procedures they use in fitting and fine-tuning based on the specific feature, such that the approaches used for the fitting of frequency-specific gain differ from other types of features (i.e., compression time constants, frequency lowering parameters, noise reduction strength, directional microphones, feedback management). Audiologists commonly rely on prescriptive fitting formulas and probe microphone measures for the fitting of frequency-specific gain and rely on manufacturers' default settings and recommendations for both the initial fitting and the fine-tuning of signal-processing features other than frequency-specific gain.

Conclusions:

The survey results are consistent with a lack of published protocols and guidelines for fitting and adjusting signal-processing features beyond frequency-specific gain. To streamline current practice, a transparent evidence-based tool that enables clinicians to prescribe the setting of other features from individual patient characteristics would be desirable.

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