“The challenges of acclimatization to hearing aids”

Contact Name: Dr Piers Dawes

Contact Email: piers.dawes@manchester.ac.uk

My research interests involve auditory processing and developmental psychology from childhood to old age, auditory plasticity and developmental disorders. Research methodologies including qualitative and quantitative techniques, including psychometric, psychophysical and electrophysiological (MEG, EEG and ABR) measures. From 2005-2007 I carried out research into auditory processing disorder (APD) for my Phd, supervised by Professor Dorothy Bishop at the University of Oxford. This research involved characterising the auditory and cognitive profile of children and adults diagnosed with APD in comparison to typical participants and those with dyslexia. This research was funded by Deafness Research UK. In 2008, I completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of York, where I developed experimental psychometric language tests and psychophysical tests of auditory processing and speech perception for use in a Wellcome Trust-funded 5 year longitudinal study of dyslexia and specific language impairment (Snowling, Hulme and Hayiou-Thomas, chief investigators). I am currently working on a study of auditory plasticity, examining changes in hearing function, listening effort and real-world benefit in relation to hearing aid use in older adults.

Objectives: To describe the process of becoming accustomed to using hearing aids and factors which facilitate this process from the perspective of adult hearing aid users.

Design: A focus group was carried out in the north of England with adult hearing aid users (n=6). Hearing aid users owned hearing aids for less than two years and had used them at least once in the past three months. A topic guide and discussion exercises were used to elicit participant’s views on becoming accustomed to hearing aid use. Focus group discussion was audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed according to qualitative content.

Results: Participants described becoming accustomed to hearing aids as a multi-factorial process which included adjusting to altered sensory input, managing practical matters such as cleaning and maintenance, discovering benefits and limitations of hearing aid use and managing the psychological impact of hearing aid use, such as on self-image. Factors that support this process included acceptance of hearing loss, persistence and consistent hearing aid use, support from friends, family and clinicians, and provision of information about hearing aids.

Conclusions: Becoming accustomed to hearing aids is a challenging multi-factorial process with both psychological and practical difficulties besides demands of adjusting to hearing aid input. Addressing these diverse challenges may offer novel ways of supporting new hearing aid users.

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