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A Comparison of Personal Sound Amplification Products and Hearing Aids in Ecologically Relevant Test Environments

Lisa Brody, Yu-Hsiang Wu, Elizabeth Stangl
American Journal of Audiology 2018 September 18, : 1-13

Purpose: The aim of this study was to compare the benefit of self-adjusted personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) to audiologist-fitted hearing aids based on speech recognition, listening effort, and sound quality in ecologically relevant test conditions to estimate real-world effectiveness.

Method: Twenty-five older adults with bilateral mild-to-moderate hearing loss completed the single-blinded, crossover study. Participants underwent aided testing using 3 PSAPs and a traditional hearing aid, as well as unaided testing. PSAPs were adjusted based on participant preference, whereas the hearing aid was configured using best-practice verification protocols. Audibility provided by the devices was quantified using the Speech Intelligibility Index (American National Standards Institute, 2012). Outcome measures assessing speech recognition, listening effort, and sound quality were administered in ecologically relevant laboratory conditions designed to represent real-world speech listening situations.

Results: All devices significantly improved Speech Intelligibility Index compared to unaided listening, with the hearing aid providing more audibility than all PSAPs. Results further revealed that, in general, the hearing aid improved speech recognition performance and reduced listening effort significantly more than all PSAPs. Few differences in sound quality were observed between devices. All PSAPs improved speech recognition and listening effort compared to unaided testing.

Conclusions: Hearing aids fitted using best-practice verification protocols were capable of providing more aided audibility, better speech recognition performance, and lower listening effort compared to the PSAPs tested in the current study. Differences in sound quality between the devices were minimal. However, because all PSAPs tested in the study significantly improved participants' speech recognition performance and reduced listening effort compared to unaided listening, PSAPs could serve as a budget-friendly option for those who cannot afford traditional amplification.


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