The Characteristics of Adults with Severe Hearing Loss

Pamela Souza, Eric Hoover, Michael Blackburn, Frederick Gallun
Journal of the American Academy of Audiology 2018, 29 (8): 764-779

BACKGROUND: Severe hearing loss impairs communication in a wide range of listening environments. However, we lack data as to the specific objective and subjective abilities of listeners with severe hearing loss. Insight into those abilities may inform treatment choices.

PURPOSE: The primary goal was to describe the audiometric profiles, spectral resolution ability, and objective and subjective speech perception of a sample of adult listeners with severe hearing loss, and to consider the relationships among those measures. We also considered the typical fitting received by individuals with severe loss, in terms of hearing aid style, electroacoustic characteristics, and features, as well as supplementary device use.

RESEARCH DESIGN: A within-subjects design was used.

STUDY SAMPLE: Participants included 36 adults aged 54-93 yr with unilateral or bilateral severe hearing loss.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Testing included a full hearing and hearing aid history; audiometric evaluation; loudness growth and dynamic range; spectral resolution; assessment of cochlear dead regions; objective and subjective assessment of speech recognition; and electroacoustic evaluation of current hearing aids. Regression models were used to analyze relationships between hearing loss, spectral resolution, and speech recognition.

RESULTS: For speech in quiet, 60% of the variance was approximately equally accounted for by amount of hearing loss, spectral resolution, and number of dead regions. For speech in noise, only a modest proportion of performance variance was explained by amount of hearing loss. In general, participants were wearing amplification of appropriate style and technology for their hearing loss, but the extent of assistive technology use was low. Subjective communication ratings depended on the listening situation, but in general, were similar to previously published data for adults with mild-to-moderate loss who did not wear hearing aids.

CONCLUSIONS: The present data suggest that the range of abilities of an individual can be more fully captured with comprehensive testing. Such testing also offers an opportunity for informed counseling regarding realistic expectations for hearing aid use and the availability of hearing assistive technology.

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