In the U.S., estimates show that roughly 15% of Americans aged 18 and over have some degree of hearing loss. Most hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids, yet according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), out of all the adults who could benefit from hearing aids, very few seek treatment. Common reasons for people not to wear hearing aids include the cost, the stigma associated with hearing loss, comfort and sound expectations. When you add in the need to visit a hearing care professional for adjustments to many models of hearing aids, it’s easier to see why many adults opt out.
Increasingly, we’re reading about Over-The-Counter (OTC) hearing aids, which would allow adults to purchase a hearing device in a store or online, without a prescription. Self-Fitting hearing aids fall into this category. But first, what are self-fitting hearing aids?
Self-Fitting Hearing Aids
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a self-fitting hearing aid is: “A wearable sound amplifying device that is intended to compensate for impaired hearing and incorporates technology, including software, that allows users to program their hearing aids. This technology integrates user input with a self-fitting strategy and enables users to independently derive and customize their hearing aid fitting and settings.”
Self-fitting hearing aids would allow wearers to set up and program the device themselves. They are considered a potential solution to help individuals with a hearing loss who may reside in parts of the world where hearing health care is limited. They are also intended to provide greater flexibility to individuals who would like more control over the process of fitting a hearing aid.
Are They Effective?
Audiologists at the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) have extensively researched self-fitting hearing aids. In a recent paper Outcomes with a Self-Fitting Hearing Aids, Gitte Kiedser and Elizabeth Convery of NAL and the HEARing Cooperative Research Centre in Australia published their findings on one self-fitting hearing aid for a group of 38 user-driven and 16 clinician-driven fittings over a 12-week time period. Participants ranged from 51 years up to 85, and were split into two fitting groups: one where a clinical assistant would fit the hearing aids, and another where the user would fit the device themselves. Users were provided with instructions on how to self-fit the hearing aid. They were instructed to seek guidance from a clinical assistant if they ran into difficulty. The results were telling:
“According to statistical analysis, individuals assigned to the user-driven fitting group were more likely to have had previous conventional hearing aid experience and to be owners of a smartphone or tablet PC. Additionally, within the user-driven fitting group, about 60% of the individuals sought help from a clinical assistant to accurately complete the self-fitting process, while the remaining 40% of the user-driven fitting group independently performed all the steps involved in the self-fitting process.”
Although unable to conclusively determine if the self-fitting hearing aids are effective, the study did highlight the need for further research.
Are They Currently Available?
Bose recently announced their intention to launch a self-fitting hearing aid, and have been given unique approval by the FDA. Bose have been granted permission to market the Bose Hearing Aid as a self-fitting hearing aid, despite OTC regulations not being finalized.
In a press release, the FDA noted that “Hearing loss is a significant public health issue, especially as individuals age,” said Malvina Eydelman, M.D., director of the Division of Ophthalmic, and Ear, Nose and Throat Devices at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Today’s marketing authorization provides certain patients with access to a new hearing aid that provides them with direct control over the fit and functionality of the device. The FDA is committed to ensuring that individuals with hearing loss have options for taking an active role in their health care.”
Book In an Appointment with Hearing Solutions, Inc.
Before determining if hearing aids are right for you, it’s important to have a hearing assessment. If you’re a first time hearing aid user, self-fitting hearing aids may not be the right choice for you. At Hearing Solutions, Inc., our hearing care professionals can find the fit and style of hearing aid most closely suited to your lifestyle. If you’d like to book in, call Hearing Solutions, Inc. on (386) 269-1779 or click here to schedule an appointment today. We have three convenient Northern Florida hearing loss clinic locations: Dowling Park, Live Oak, or Lake City.