A Self-Fitting Hearing Aid: Need and Concept

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Abstract

The need for reliable access to hearing health care services is growing globally, particularly in developing countries and in remotely located, underserved regions in many parts of the developed world. Individuals with hearing loss in these areas are at a significant disadvantage due to the scarcity of local hearing health care professionals and the high cost of hearing aids. Current approaches to making hearing rehabilitation services more readily available to underserved populations include teleaudiology and the provision of amplification devices outside of the traditional provider-client relationship. Both strategies require access to such resources as dedicated equipment and/or specially trained staff. Another possible strategy is a self-fitting hearing aid, a personal amplification device that is equipped with an onboard tone generator to enable user-controlled, automated, in situ audiometry; an onboard prescription to determine the initial hearing aid settings; and a trainable algorithm to enable user-controlled fine-tuning. The device is thus assembled, fitted, and managed by the user without the need for audiological or computer support. This article details the self-fitting concept and its potential application in both developing and developed countries. Potential advantages and disadvantages of such a device are discussed, and considerations for further investigations into the concept are presented. Overall, the concept is considered technologically viable with the main challenges anticipated to be development of clear, simple user instructions and a delivery model that ensures reliable supplies of instant-fit ear tips and batteries.

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