You’ve constantly heard me talk about real ear measurement as a form of hearing aid verification to ensure that your hearing aids are programmed correctly to your hearing loss prescription.
Validation is necessary to ensure that you’re actually receiving real world benefit with hearing aids. Even though verification, like real ear measurement, isn’t occurring very often, at least validation is happening more often.
Validation of Your Hearing Aid Experience
A pie chart from Marketrak VIII, which looks at data from the hearing aid industry, reveals the results of a survey consisting of 787 subjects. It indicates that approximately 69% of these subjects reported that their hearing care provider validated their hearing aid fitting.
Now just to be clear, hearing aid validation does not mean that your hearing care provider is asking you “how does that sound?” during your initial hearing aid fitting appointment. Hearing aid validation should be a measurable outcome. Measurable validation is obtained by a pre- and post-outcome measure, typically in the form of a questionnaire. These are the three different types of validation measures that I like to use in my clinic.
The Client Oriented Scale of Improvement (COSI)
The Client Oriented Scale of Improvement, aka the COSI, is an excellent way to evaluate improvement due to hearing aids. Essentially, you identify key areas that you want to hear better in, at the beginning of your treatment with hearing aids. Then, you score your perceived improvement upon the completion of your fitting period. There are a number of factors that go into how you will rank your degree of change with hearing aids, but in general, you should be in the “Better” categories and not in the “Worse” or “No Difference” categories. Your final hearing abilities should also be in the higher levels of satisfaction.
If you are not ranking high in these categories, there is a good chance either your expectations are unrealistic, you are in the wrong level of hearing aid technology based on your needs, or your hearing aids were not fitted and programmed properly to your hearing loss prescription.
The Abbreviated Profile of Hearing Aid Benefit (APHAB)
The APHAB uses 24 predetermined questions, each on the seven-point Likert Scale. The scale ranges from Never to Always. It evaluates four different categories of performance, including Ease of Communication, Reverberation, Background Noise, and Aversiveness. The questionnaire is to be completed once the before the hearing aid treatment and again after completion of the hearing aid fitting period to compare results before and after treatment.
In terms of validation questionnaires, the APHAB is an absolute stud, especially for nerds like me who love comparing outcome scores to norms! You can download these questionnaires in paper format, but the excitement comes when you use the scoring software. In the scoring software, you can compare untreated scores to your treated scores; you can also compare your outcomes with the norms of other hearing aid users for each of the four subcategories.
If you want to see a highly detailed analysis of your improvement with hearing aids, the APHAB is the perfect validation questionnaire for you.
The International Outcome Inventory for Hearing Aids (IOIHA)
This questionnaire is perfect for individuals who have already had hearing aids and are performing well with them. It is a short, seven-item questionnaire that identifies how long a hearing aid user wears their hearing aids, along with other questions that identify how much success and satisfaction a user is having with their hearing aids. This can uncover specific areas that should be targeted for improvement, and it can also be completed after adjustment of the user’s current hearing aids or after a fitting period with new hearing aids to determine how big the improvement is.
Evaluating How Well You are Performing
Evaluating how well you are performing with your hearing aids should not be done in the form of “how do you think you are doing with your hearing aids?” There should be a very specific set of criteria you are using to evaluate how well you’re performing in the real world, in a variety of different situations.
While we’re not specifically discussing verification methods like real ear measurement, when you do real ear measurement as a form of hearing aid verification, it gives you better scores on these validation measures – meaning that you get more benefit in the real world. This is proven by research.
That being said, when you perform verification and validation together, not one or the other, but both of them together, then you know that you’re going to be getting the maximum amount of benefit out of your hearing devices – meaning that you are going to actually get what you paid for. Furthermore, it actually reduces the number of visits you have to make to your hearing care professional. This saves you both time and money!
The next time you get hearing aids, not only should you expect that your hearing care provider perform real ear measurement on you – you should also expect that they ask you to complete a validation questionnaire to ensure that you get the maximum of benefit with your hearing aids in the real world.