Letter to the Editor: Johnson, J. A., Xu, J., Cox, R. M. (2017). Impact of Hearing Aid Technology on Outcomes in Daily Life III

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In recent years, clinicians have begun to discuss the sound localization abilities of hearing aid users more frequently. This is due in part to hearing aid manufacturers’ attempt to remove binaural cue distortion and add pinna cue information in their products. These advancements create a need for, and interest in, binaural hearing research in clinical audiology. This means that for those who are experts in other clinical areas, guidance from the last century of binaural psychoacoustics research (e.g., Stecker & Gallun 2012) would be of great benefit. The importance of connecting clinical research and binaural psychoacoustics is demonstrated by a recent study evaluating the effects of hearing aid technology on sound localization ability (Johnson et al. 2017). While examining the relationship of localization ability to hearing aid technology is timely and of great interest, we are concerned that the behavioral methods used to examine localization are not appropriate to test the important hypotheses proposed. As a result, we are concerned that the results are potentially misleading. Specifically, (1) the technique used to evaluate premium versus basic hearing aid technology on front–back confusions allowed listeners to move their heads, which we are concerned is a more potent cue than the pinna cue simulations present in the premium (but not basic) hearing aids, and, (2) the response method used for horizontal plane localization involved such large steps in horizontal angle that it is potentially insufficiently sensitive to the differences in localization that would have occurred on the basis of differences in, or even the introduction of, hearing aid technology.
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