Patients With Normal Hearing Thresholds but Difficulty Hearing in Noisy Environments: A Study on the Willingness to Try Auditory Training

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Abstract

Hypothesis:

Persons with normal audiometric thresholds but excessive difficulty hearing in background noise will choose auditory training as a treatment option.

Background:

Auditory training has traditionally been reserved for those with marked hearing loss. We investigated auditory training as a treatment option for those who have normal auditory thresholds but complain about hearing in noise—a population of patients for which no therapy or intervention currently exists. We also determined the willingness of this patient population to volunteer for a free auditory training program.

Methods:

We administered a 14-item, telephone-based questionnaire to assess perceived difficulty hearing in noise and willingness to volunteer for auditory training. We developed questions to identify those who consistently reported difficulty hearing in noise, but not quiet.

Results:

The 11,938-person database included 2,299 patients with pure-tone averages less than 25. A total of 474 of these patients completed our questionnaire, 135 of who had normal audiometric thresholds at all octave frequencies 0.25 to 8 kHz. We found that difficulty hearing in noise was a graded problem. Our approach to find consistent reports about hearing in noise showed that the majority of people who consistently had difficulty hearing in noise, but not quiet, were the most likely to try auditory training.

Conclusions:

While relatively few patients with both normal hearing thresholds and complaints of severe difficulty hearing in noise were in the database, these patients were generally willing to volunteer for auditory training. Our results provide evidence that many in this underserved population would volunteer for auditory training.

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