PORTLAND, OR—When people are fitted with hearing aids, they often face difficulty in obtaining the maximum benefit from them. That’s why the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which fits more than half a million hearing aids a year on U.S. military veterans, is sponsoring a 2-year pilot study to explore if certain tools and techniques can help patients make the behavioral changes necessary to ensure positive hearing aid use.
The project, which is funded by the VA’s Rehabilitation R&D Service, is headed by Samantha Lewis, PhD, a staff investigator at the VA National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research (NCRAR) and assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
The study, entitled, “Applying the Use of Motivational Tools to Auditory Rehabilitation,” will investigate the effectiveness of motivational tools and interviewing techniques in helping patients make the behavioral changes necessary to ensure positive hearing aid use. These tools and strategies, which were developed at the Ida Institute, will be used as a means to explore and address patients’ prioritization of and confidence in hearing aids.
Lewis, who received training from the Ida Institute on the use of its motivational tools, will conduct the pilot study at the VA Medical Center in Portland. It will be a randomized clinical trial in which unsuccessful hearing aid users will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group or to the control group.
In the treatment group, the tools will be used to address patient-specific barriers to and motivators for successful hearing aid use. The control group will be given routine information regarding the care and use of hearing aids, which is the existing standard of care.
The study hypothesizes that the use of the motivational counseling technique will result in greater hearing aid use and better hearing aid outcomes. During the pilot study, Lewis, the principal investigator, and the other researchers will seek to identify information crucial for conducting a large-scale randomized trial exploring the use of proposed motivational intervention as a means for improving hearing aid use, and potentially other patient outcomes.
In her application for the VA RR&D funding, Lewis noted that the easy transition of the Ida motivational tools from the laboratory to the clinic “is a strength of this proposal, as it could result in immediate improvements for our veterans with hearing loss who are currently having a difficult time adjusting to hearing aid use.”
The pilot study is expected to be completed in 2015.
Lise Lotte Bundesen, managing director of the Ida Institute, said, “We are pleased that the Veterans Administration has seen the value of conducting research on the potential for positive outcomes with the Motivational Tools.” She added, “We look forward to the study results that will help us to provide clinicians with the outcome data needed to further expand use of the motivational tools in private and public clinics around the world.”
Based in Naerum, Denmark, the Ida Institute, is an independent, non-profit organization funded by a grant from the Oticon Foundation.
FOUNDATION ALSO FUNDS AUDITORY RESEARCH
The NCRAR pilot study is not the first federal research project with connections to the Oticon Foundation. Earlier this year, researchers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center reported the results of a 5-year auditory research project funded with a $3 million grant from that foundation, which owns William Demant Invest (WDI), parent company of Oticon and other hearing care companies.
The study adapted a series of innovative models of normal auditory processing to account for the individualized effects of sensorineural hearing loss. The immediate goal was to verify adaptations that will lead to advanced signal processing strategies that provide benefit well beyond what is offered by the current generation of digital hearing aids.
The study was led by Ken W. Grant, PhD, director of scientific and clinical studies at the Audiology and Speech Center of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and involved the efforts of other scientists at Walter Reed as well as researchers at NCRAR in Portland.
The results appeared in Volume 24 of the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology.