Expectations, Prefitting Counseling, and Hearing Aid Outcome
Background: Data suggest that having high expectations about hearing aids results in better overall outcome. However, some have postulated that excessively high expectations will result in disappointment and thus poor outcome. It has been suggested that counseling patients with unrealistic expectations about hearing aids prior to fitting may be beneficial. Data, however, are mixed as to the effectiveness of such counseling, in terms of both changes in expectations and final outcome. Purpose: The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether supplementing prefitting counseling with demonstration of real-world listening can (1) alter expectations of new hearing aid users and (2) increase satisfaction over verbal-only counseling. Secondary goals of the study were to examine (1) the relationship between prefitting expectations and postfitting outcome, and (2) the effect of hearing aid fine-tuning on hearing aid outcome. Research Design: Sixty new hearing aid users were fitted binaurally with Beltone Oria behind-the-ear digital hearing aids. Forty participants received prefitting counseling and demonstration of listening situations with the Beltone AVE™ (Audio Verification Environment) system; 20 received prefitting counseling without a demonstration of listening situations. Hearing aid expectations were measured at initial contact and following prefitting counseling. Reported hearing aid outcome was measured after eight to ten weeks of hearing aid use. Study Sample: Sixty new hearing aid users aged between 55 and 81 years with symmetrical sensorineural hearing loss. Intervention: Participants were randomly assigned to one of three experimental groups, between which the prefitting counseling and follow-up differed: Group 1 received prefitting counseling in combination with demonstration of listening situations. Additionally, if the participant had complaints about sound quality at the follow-up visit, the hearing aids were fine-tuned using the Beltone AVE system. Group 2 received prefitting counseling in combination with demonstration of listening situations with the Beltone AVE system, but no fine-tuning was provided at follow-up. Group 3 received prefitting hearing aid counseling that did not include demonstration of listening, and the hearing aids were not fine-tuned at the follow-up appointment. Results: The results showed that prefitting hearing aid counseling had small but significant effects on expectations. The two forms of counseling did not differ in their effectiveness at changing expectations; however, anecdotally, we learned from many participants that that they enjoyed listening to the auditory demonstrations and that they found them to be an interesting listening exercise. The data also show that positive expectations result in more positive outcome and that hearing aid fine-tuning is beneficial to the user. Conclusions: We conclude that prefitting counseling can be advantageous to hearing aid outcome and recommend the addition of prefitting counseling to address expectations associated with quality of life and self-image. The data emphasize the need to address unrealistic expectations prior to fitting hearing aids cautiously, so as not to decrease expectations to the extent of discouraging and demotivating the patient. Data also show that positive expectations regarding the impact hearing aids will have on psychosocial well-being are important for successful hearing aid outcome.