Supporting people with perceived hearing loss.

National Acoustic Laboratories’ researchers found there are significant numbers of people who report trouble with hearing in certain situations but have ‘normal’ audiograms.

Head of Audiological Science, Padraig Kitterick, says that National Acoustic Laboratories, aka NAL has been looking to improve our understanding of this group of people and investigate potential solutions. And one recent project explored the benefits of hearing aids.

NAL is funded by the Australian Government to lead the world in hearing research and evidence-based innovation to improve hearing health and transform the lives of people with hearing difficulties.

Padraig says, “Hearing aids have traditionally been targeted at people diagnosed with a hearing loss by an audiologist. However, hearing aids are now being targeted directly to consumers, so they don’t necessarily need to see an audiologist in person for a hearing assessment. And they don’t need to have received a clinical diagnosis of hearing loss before accessing hearing aids.

“Hearing aid manufacturers have started to describe those who are suitable for hearing aids as people with ‘perceived hearing loss’. But there has been limited research on what perceived hearing loss is and potential solutions. We looked at types of perceived hearing loss and whether hearing aids provided any benefits.”

Almost 1 in 4 people aged 30 years and over perceive themselves to have hearing problems. Those perceived hearing problems were most frequently associated with difficulties hearing in noise. These problems could also lead to negative emotions and listening fatigue.

“When people with perceived hearing problems tried hearing aids, 90 per cent experienced reduced difficulty with hearing in everyday life. We also found that 2 in 3 were sure that the hearing aids were providing benefit to them. This research shines a light on how important it is to understand how people think about their hearing problems. This information could be used to help them understand their problems better, and to make it easier to decide whether devices like hearing aids could help them. Our research also suggests that people who think they have hearing problems can benefit from hearing aids, even if they haven’t received a diagnosis from an audiologist”, Padraig said.

Hearing Australia Clinical Leader, Chelsea Scott, says that there’s never a one-size-fits-all approach for managing hearing difficulties, and clinicians work closely with clients to find solutions that are right for them.

“Depending on the degree of hearing difficulty a person is experiencing, the solution can vary from counselling and monitoring, using an assistive listening device, or using hearing aids. Clinicians can provide support with strategies and tactics that people can use to help with their hearing, especially in more challenging situations like hearing in noise,” Chelsea said.