An initial-fit comparison of two generic hearing aid prescriptive methods (NAL-NL2 and CAM2) to individuals having mild to moderately severe high-frequency hearing loss

Earl E Johnson
Journal of the American Academy of Audiology 2013, 24 (2): 138-50

BACKGROUND: Johnson and Dillon (2011) provided a model-based comparison of current generic hearing aid prescriptive methods for adults with hearing loss based on the attributes of speech intelligibility, loudness, and bandwidth.

PURPOSE: This study compared the National Acoustic Laboratories-Non-linear 2 (NAL-NL2) and Cambridge Method for Loudness Equalization 2-High-Frequency (CAM2) prescriptive methods using adult participants with less high-frequency hearing loss than Johnson and Dillon (2011). Of study interest was quantification of prescribed audibility, speech intelligibility, and loudness. The preferences of participants for either NAL-NL2 or CAM2 and preferred deviations from prescribed settings are also reported.

RESEARCH DESIGN: Using a single-blind, counter-balanced, randomized design, preference judgments for the prescriptive methods with regard to sound quality of speech and music stimuli were obtained. Preferred gain adjustments from the prescription within the 4-10 kHz frequency range were also obtained from each participant. Speech intelligibility and loudness model calculations were completed on the prescribed and adjusted amplification.

STUDY SAMPLE: Fourteen male Veterans, whose average age was 65 yr and whose hearing sensitivity averaged normal to borderline normal through 1000 Hz sloping to a moderately severe sensorineural loss, served as participants.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Following a brief listening time (~10 min), typical of an initial fitting visit, the participants made paired comparison of sound quality between the NAL-NL2 and CAM2 prescriptive settings. Participants were also asked to modify each prescription in the range of 4-10 kHz using an overall gain control and make subsequent comparisons of sound quality preference between prescriptive and adjusted settings. Participant preferences were examined with respect to quantitative analysis of loudness modeling, speech intelligibility modeling, and measured high-frequency bandwidth audibility.

RESULTS: Consistent with the lack of difference in predicted speech intelligibility between the two prescriptions, sound quality preferences on the basis of clarity were split across participants while some participants did not have a discernable preference. Considering sound quality judgments of pleasantness, the majority of participants preferred the sound quality of the NAL-NL2 (8 of 14) prescription instead of the CAM2 prescription (2 of 14). Four of the 14 participants showed no preference on the basis of pleasantness for either prescription. Individual subject preferences were supported by loudness modeling that indicated NAL-NL2 was the softer of the two prescriptions and CAM2 was the louder. CAM2 did provide more audibility to the higher frequencies (5-8 kHz) than NAL-NL2. Participants turned the 4-10 kHz gain recommendation of CAM2 lower, on average, by a significant amount of 4 dB when making adjustments while no significant adjustment was made to the initial NAL-NL2 recommendation.

CONCLUSIONS: NAL-NL2 prescribed gains were more often preferred at the initial fitting by the majority of participating veterans. For those patients with preference for a louder fitting than NAL-NL2, CAM2 is a good alternative. When the participant adjustment from the prescription between 4 and 10 kHz exceeded 4 dB from either NAL-NL2 (2 of 14) or CAM2 (11 of 14), the participants demonstrated a later preference for that adjustment 69% of the time. These findings are viewed as limited evidence that some individuals may have a preference for high-frequency gain that differs from the starting prescription.

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