United Kingdom researchers have initiated a research project that gives first time hearing aid users an easy-to-use, interactive video tutorial about effectively using hearing aids. If the videos are shown to help first time fittings, the tutorials may be distributed to patients receiving hearing aids through the National Health Service (NHS), Britain’s state insurance program.

The project is being led by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the National Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing (NBRUH), and it will bring together expertise from researchers and leading clinicians from The University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Consultant clinical scientist Mel Ferguson, from Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust, who is leading the study, said, “A huge amount of information is given to patients verbally when they receive their hearing aids, yet much of it is forgotten a few weeks later. Many problems that occur could be easily solved if only the patient knew what to do; instead, the hearing aids end up in the proverbial “kitchen drawer.'”

In addition to issues with retaining the large amount of information given to users at their clinic appointment, there are other significant barriers to hearing aid use before patients even reach the referral stage.

Many hearing aid users have had difficulties in hearing for at least 10 years before they get a hearing aid, and cite many reasons for not seeking advice. These include perceiving their hearing to be “not that bad,” acceptance of hearing loss as a normal consequence of ageing, lack of awareness that they may have a hearing loss (“everyone mumbles these days”), lack of understanding of hearing loss and what to do about it, and simply avoiding addressing the issue.

In addition, many people who need a hearing aid are not given the referral they need to see a specialist. According to the researchers, 47% of those in the UK in the 55 to 74-year-old age group with significant hearing loss failed to get a referral to audiology services, even after telling their primary care doctor that they were having difficulty hearing.

The project team has worked with more than 30 hearing aid users to develop eight video tutorials that can be played on a DVD player, on a computer, or via the Internet, which provide advice on how best to use hearing aids and communicate with family and friends.

The tutorials reinforce information and advice given at the clinic appointment and include information, animations, videos, as well as messages from users of hearing aids about their personal experiences.

At the end of each tutorial, there is an interactive quiz so the patients can review what they have learned. The tutorials, which total an hour in duration, will also offer friends and family an important insight into how best to support the hearing aid user by developing a better awareness of how best to hold conversations with people with hearing loss.

Anne Darby, an experienced hearing aid user of 30 years, played a key role in providing a patient perspective for the project. She said, “This is a fabulous resource for people receiving their hearing aids for the first time. It explains the mechanics of hearing and how hearing aids work, supports people through the difficulties of adjustment, lets the viewer know that they are not alone, points to other resources, and, most of all, is reassuring to the patient and their partners, family and friends.”

The team has received a £235,000 NIHR Research for Patient Benefit grant and is now in the process of evaluating the potential benefits of the tutorials.

The study to evaluate the video tutorials involves 200 patients. The first hearing aid patient to complete the trial, Hazel Hampton, said she was delighted with the tutorials.

She said, “If I did not have the DVD, I might have given up wearing my hearing aids. Because of the DVD, I have entered a much easier self-directing and informative environment, instead of a wild, woolly, and noisy world. I think the DVD is a well thought out educational resource.”

SOURCE: University of Nottingham