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Hearing aid fitting in older persons with hearing impairment: the influence of cognitive function, age, and hearing loss on hearing aid benefit

Authors Meister H, Rählmann S, Walger M, Margolf-Hackl S, Kießling J

Received 6 November 2014

Accepted for publication 13 December 2014

Published 10 February 2015 Volume 2015:10 Pages 435—443


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker

Hartmut Meister,1 Sebastian Rählmann,1 Martin Walger,2 Sabine Margolf-Hackl,3 Jürgen Kießling3

1Jean Uhrmacher Institute for Clinical ENT-Research, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany; 2Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany; 3Department of Othorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University of Giessen, Giessen, Germany

Purpose: To examine the association of cognitive function, age, and hearing loss with clinically assessed hearing aid benefit in older hearing-impaired persons.
Methods: Hearing aid benefit was assessed using objective measures regarding speech recognition in quiet and noisy environments as well as a subjective measure reflecting everyday situations captured using a standardized questionnaire. A broad range of general cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and intelligence were determined using different neuropsychological tests. Linear regression analyses were conducted with the outcome of the neuropsychological tests as well as age and hearing loss as independent variables and the benefit measures as dependent variables. Thirty experienced older hearing aid users with typical age-related hearing impairment participated.
Results: Most of the benefit measures revealed that the participants obtained significant improvement with their hearing aids. Regression models showed a significant relationship between a fluid intelligence measure and objective hearing aid benefit. When individual hearing thresholds were considered as an additional independent variable, hearing loss was the only significant contributor to the benefit models. Lower cognitive capacity – as determined by the fluid intelligence measure – was significantly associated with greater hearing loss. Subjective benefit could not be predicted by any of the variables considered.
Conclusion: The present study does not give evidence that hearing aid benefit is critically associated with cognitive function in experienced hearing aid users. However, it was found that lower fluid intelligence scores were related to higher hearing thresholds. Since greater hearing loss was associated with a greater objective benefit, these results strongly support the advice of using hearing aids regardless of age and cognitive function to counter hearing loss and the adverse effects of age-related hearing impairment. Still, individual cognitive capacity might be relevant for hearing aid benefit during an initial phase of hearing aid provision if acclimatization has not yet taken place.

Keywords: fluid intelligence, working memory, experience

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