According to researchers at The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research in Norway, 20% of hearing aid users in Norway use their hearing aids for only an hour each day due to poor fitting and inadequate support. Consequently, Norwegian researchers are now working on better ways to educate and cooperate with hearing aid patients so that hearing aids are used frequently and effectively.

Hearing aids in Norway are dispensed by clinicians that fit the hearing aid using a computer application that gathers data based on oral feedback from the user. With this common hearing technology, the patient is not actively involved in the process and is assumed to have poor understanding of their own hearing loss and will therefore have little sense of ownership.

In the spring of 2012, SINTEF, the Norwegian acronym for the foundation, performed a research study that indicated a need for more two-way cooperation between the user and the hearing clinician, with better communication providing the user with a deeper understanding of their situation and available options.

The researchers also saw the need to use sound with pictures that are more tailored to the user and that can provide more accurate adaptation.

Based on the study, the researchers created a concept for a new collaborative model in which the user and clinician are more equal partners, with the user participating to a far higher degree in ascertaining the problem, choosing a solution, and fitting the hearing aid.

“Our idea is to develop a sound room with a work table with a surface that consists of a touch-sensitive display. Such a work surface can enhance the interaction between the two persons involved, and by demonstrating models and solutions and simulating different sound pictures, the user will also be given a sense of control,” says Geir Kjetil Hanssen at SINTEF.

For example, using sound simulations, a farmer can test his hearing aid in the presence of tractor noise, while a teacher can try the apparatus among the sounds of a classroom. Thus, both will be able to have their hearing aids adjusted to suit a realistic sound environment.

“The table itself is standard equipment,” says Hanssen. “It’s almost as simple as putting legs on a flat screen. The real job is the development of the software.”

The development of the concept now calls for more detailed interaction with the end users, represented by the Norwegian Association for the Hearing Impaired (HLF).

The next challenge will be to plan and establish a development and commercialization project, which is expected to begin in 2013.

SOURCE: The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF)