Considerations in the Development of a Sound Tolerance Interview and Questionnaire Instrument

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Abstract

Most clinicians approach the objective fitting of hearing aids with three goals in mind: audibility, comfort, and tolerance. When these three amplification goals have been met, the hearing aid user is more likely to adapt to and perceive benefit from hearing aid use. However, problems related to the loudness of sounds and reduced sound tolerance, which may or may not be reported by the aided user, can adversely impact adaptation to amplification and the individual's quality of life. Although there are several standardized questionnaires available to evaluate hearing aid benefit and satisfaction, there is no standardized questionnaire or interview tool for evaluating reduced sound tolerance and the related impact on hearing aid use. We describe a 36-item tool, the Sound Tolerance Questionnaire (STQ), consisting of six sections, including experience with hearing aids, sound sensitivity/intolerance, medical and noise exposure histories, coexisting tinnitus problems, and a final question to differentiate the primary and secondary problems related to sound intolerance, tinnitus, and hearing loss. In its current format as a research tool, the STQ was sensitive in pinpointing vague sound tolerance complaints not reported by the study participants in eligibility screening by Formby et al. A refined version of the STQ, the Sound Tolerance Interview and Questionnaire Instrument (STIQI), structured as a two-part tool, is presented in the appendix for prospective clinical use. The STIQI has potential utility to delineate factors contributing to loudness complaints and/or reduced sound tolerance in individuals considering hearing aid use, as well as those who have been unsuccessful hearing aid users secondary to loudness complaints or sound intolerance. The STIQI, when validated and refined, also may hold promise for predicting hearing aid benefit and/or assessing treatment-related change over time of hearing aid use or interventions designed to remediate problems of loudness and/or sound intolerance among hearing aid candidates or users.

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