Background: Hearing loss can lead to isolation and social withdrawal. The telephone oftentimes connects persons with hearing loss to society; however, telephone use is impeded by narrow bandwidth, loss of visual cues, electromagnetic interference, and inherent phone-line noise. In the past, research assessing telephone communication has consistently reported that switching from the microphone to a telecoil will typically result in the acoustic signal being discernibly softer. Properly used telecoils improve the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), decrease the chance for acoustic feedback, and overcome the impact of distance and reverberation creating an opportunity for clearer telephone communication. Little research, however, has examined matching the telecoil frequency response to the prescribed target of the microphone frequency response (National Acoustics Laboratories, Non-Linear, version 1 [NAL-NL1]). Purpose: The primary goal of this study was to determine if differences exist in speech recognition for sentences (AZ-BIO) and consonant-vowel nucleus-consonant monosyllabic words (CNC) between two telecoil conditions (default and programmed). A secondary goal was to determine if differences exist in speech recognition for sentences between male and female talkers. Research Design: A single-blinded randomized controlled trial. Study Sample: Twenty experienced adult hearing aid users with bilateral symmetric slight to severe sensorineural hearing loss were recruited from Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. In addition, ten normal-hearing participants were recruited to determine the presentation level of the speech stimuli for the hearing aid participants. Data Collection and Analysis: Participants underwent real-ear measures to program the microphone frequency response of a receiver-in-the-canal hearing aid to NAL-NL1. Using the manufacturer software, one telecoil program remained as the manufacturer default and a second telecoil program was programmed so the sound pressure level for an inductive telephone simulator frequency response matching the microphone's frequency response to obtain as close to a 0 dB relative simulated equivalent telephone sensitivity value as possible. Participants then completed speech recognition measures including AZ-BIO sentences (male and female talkers) and CNC monosyllabic words and phonemes, using both telecoil programs. A mixed model analysis was performed to examine if significant differences in speech recognition exist between the two conditions and speech stimuli. Results: Results revealed significant improvement in overall speech recognition for the programmed telecoil performance compared with default telecoil performance (p, 0.001). Also, improved performance in the programmed telecoil was reported with a male talker (p, 0.001) and performance for sentences compared with monosyllabic words (p, 0.001) or phonemes (p, 0.001). Conclusions: The programmed telecoil condition revealed significant improvement in speech recognition for all speech stimuli conditions compared with the default telecoil (sentences, monosyllables, and phonemes). Additional improvement was observed in both telecoil conditions when the talker was male.
- Hearing aids