Why do you listen to that program? – An analysis of hearing aid program usage in real life
Hearing aids usually have an automatic program that detects the acoustic situation and changes hearing aid settings accordingly. For specific situations or special demands the hearing care professional can configure additional hearing programs, so that the patient can switch between them at will. However, many hearing aid wearers have only a single program. Possible reasons could be that a further program is not necessary or beneficial or that hearing aid wearers refuse to switch because choosing a suitable program might be too difficult.
In order to analyze when and for what reasons subjects switch between hearing programs we performed a study with 10 hearing impaired subjects (mean age 71 years, PTA4 = 42dBHL), who were bilaterally fitted with Signia Pure 13 7Nx hearing aids for a three weeks home trial. During this time, we asked them to fill out a questionnaire whenever they switched between hearing programs. Both was done via an Ecological Momentary Assessment app on a smart phone which we provided to the subjects. In addition, all program changes and objective information about the acoustic situation were recorded. To ensure that all programs were tested, the hearing aids switched automatically into a random program every morning. Subjects could switch back immediately, if desired.
We found that the universal program was listened to about twice as much as any other program and subjects never indicated that switching into the universal program deteriorated the listening experience. This shows that this program is, as intended, a safe option for all listening situations that never fails completely. However, we also see that the other programs were used and in the exit interviews each subject stated that they liked at least one other program except the universal program. While subjects indicated that the main reason for program switching is the change of a listening situation, this could often not be seen in the objective data. Thus, a subjective change is not necessarily represented in the objective data available from the hearing aid. Furthermore, the selection of programs for certain situations or listening goals differed greatly among subjects. This makes it difficult to create an automatic program that fulfils all individual needs and shows why special programs can be beneficial for hearing impaired.