A recent publication from Dr. Anu Sharma and colleagues at University Colorado, Boulder showed people who achieve a normal score with their hearing aids on a difficult speech in noise test were spared the brain resource reallocation reported for her subjects who have untreated or poorly treated hearing loss, perhaps explaining the strong relationship between hearing loss and dementia as noted by Dr. Frank Lin and colleagues at Johns Hopkins.
Based on these findings we became interested in those subjective and objective variables associated with a normal aided score on this difficult speech in noise test, looking for variables that might predict this favorable outcome.These findings are at odds with several reports in the literature.
For example, it has been suggested that those who wish to perform well in noisy environments, must purchase top-of-the-line, premium hearing aids. This was not shown in our study as many of these subjects wore the most basic hearing aids with virtually no advanced features.
Reports in the literature suggest as people age, the aging brain is no longer able to suppress unwanted background noise, resulting in poor scores on the speech in noise tests. This was not shown in our results as subjects ranged in age from 14 to 84 years old.
It has been suggested the most recent hearing aid technology has superior noise reduction capabilities. Again, this was not shown as a number of hearing aids in this study were between 10 and 16 years old.
We also looked at patient age, income and education level which bore no relationship to these normal aided scores.
There was no evidence of hearing aid brand superiority as four of the six largest hearing aid manufactures were represented among these patients with normal aided scores.
With so many long-standing tenants challenged by this study it is noteworthy to see which factors do contribute to normal aided scores on this speech in noise test.
■ There were no patients with moderately-severe to profound hearing losses. Those who hope to score normally on this speech in noise test should start wearing hearing aids sooner rather than later. This finding is consistent with several previous reports in the literature and suggesting unaided speech clarity and normal brain function degrade rapidly over time once hearing loss is apparent.
■ These hearing aids were programmed according to well-established mathematical models confirmed with real ear testing. No subject wore hearing aids that were dramatically under fit for the individual’s hearing loss.
Those interested in further information on this study are invited to the monthly meeting of the Oregon Association for Better Hearing at the Corvallis Good Samaritan Hospital, Conference Room A on August 8th, 2019 from 3:30 to 5:00PM. There is no charge; no patient information is solicited, no reservation is required and free refreshments are served.
You can also visit our website for more information and contact us for any question you may have!