Self-fitting hearing aids: a solution for remote areas?

Access to hearing healthcare

Remote areas have no easy access to healthcare
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Researchers from the National Acoustic Laboratories and the Hearing CRC, New South Wales, Australia, recently published a review of the status of self-fitting hearing aids (SFHAs).

The researchers describe the concept of SFHA as self-contained units that can be adjusted without requiring access to other hardware or an internet connection, and that can be fitted by the users themselves without needing help from a hearing healthcare professional. Fitting involves obtaining the initial hearing aid setting from threshold data and self-directed fine tuning to achieve personalized settings.

This type of system is considered beneficial especially in developing countries and for remote areas of developed countries, such as in Australia. A number of products available in the direct-to-consumer market were assessed. Concerning outcomes, the review found that the main issues involved in successful use of these devices were the technical characteristics of the hearing aid and person-directed factors that include ease of insertion, clarity of instructions given, and an intuitive response interface. Other challenges for developing countries are affordability and sustainable delivery systems.

In terms of future perspectives, the authors expect that use of SFHAs will grow, with most future products consisting of earpieces that connect wirelessly to a smartphone and providers offering assistance through telehealth infrastructures. They also believe that SFHAs will be integrated into the traditional hearing healthcare model. Full details can be found in the review published in the journal Trends in Hearing in mid-April.

Source: Keidser G, et al. Self-Fitting Hearing Aids: Status Quo and Future Predictions. Trends in Hearing. 2016 Apr 12;20.

C.S.