Hearing loss is a common problem, particularly among older adults. For those with hearing loss, hearing aids can provide significant benefits, including improved communication, increased social participation, and better quality of life. However, adult hearing aid users can still face many challenges, even with hearing aids.
One of the most significant challenges is difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments. Hearing aids can amplify all sounds, not just speech, making it challenging to follow a conversation in a noisy restaurant or a busy street. Additionally, hearing loss can affect the ability to locate the source of sounds, making it difficult to distinguish between multiple conversations happening at once.
In a randomized controlled trial, researchers found that home-delivered auditory training with live-voice conversations may benefit adult hearing aid users. The study included 39 hearing aid users and their communication partners. The participants were divided into two groups - an experimental group and an active-control group.
The experimental group conversed with their communication partners while a single-talker distractor was present. The distractor was set to a challenging level, and the participants were involved in this activity for 30 minutes per day, five days per week, over four weeks. The active-control group engaged in comparable conversations in quiet.
The study found that the experimental group significantly improved their words-in-noise perception and outperformed the active-control group. Both groups experienced improvements in self-reported hearing difficulty, while only the experimental group showed improvement in the dual task. The study also found that both groups subjectively reported increased concentration and listening skills.
The study concludes that home-delivered live-voice auditory training with communication partners can improve outcomes for adult hearing aid users, regardless of the presence or absence of a competing speech distractor. Further research is needed to assess the mechanisms of benefit and distractor effects in carefully controlled experiments.
This study provides promising evidence for the effectiveness of auditory training for adult hearing aid users. It suggests that home-delivered auditory training, specifically with live-voice conversations, can improve hearing aid users' ability to understand speech in noisy environments. This is important because understanding speech in noise is a significant challenge for many hearing aid users. Additionally, the study found that both groups subjectively reported increased concentration and listening skills, which could have positive implications for overall communication ability.
However, it should be noted that this study was conducted with a relatively small sample size, and more research is needed to confirm these findings. Nevertheless, the study provides a valuable starting point for future research into the effectiveness of home-delivered auditory training for hearing aid users.