Detection, Speech Recognition, Loudness, and Preference Outcomes With a Direct Drive Hearing Aid: Effects of Bandwidth
Trends in Hearing
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Direct drive hearing devices, which deliver a signal directly to the middle ear by vibrating the tympanic membrane via a lens placed in contact with the umbo, are designed to provide an extension of audible bandwidth, but there are few studies of the effects of these devices on preference, speech intelligibility, and loudness. The current study is the first to compare aided speech understanding between narrow and extended bandwidth conditions for listeners with hearing loss while fitted with a direct drive hearing aid system. The study also explored the effect of bandwidth on loudness perception and investigated subjective preference for bandwidth. Fifteen adult hearing aid users with symmetrical sensorineural hearing loss participated in a prospective, within-subjects, randomized single-blind repeated-measures study. Participants wore the direct drive hearing aids for 4 to 15 weeks (average 6 weeks) prior to outcome measurement. Outcome measures were completed in various bandwidth conditions achieved by reducing the gain of the device above 5000 Hz or by filtering the stimuli. Aided detection thresholds provided evidence of amplification to 10000 Hz. A significant improvement was found in high-frequency consonant detection and recognition, as well as for speech in noise performance in the full versus narrow bandwidth conditions. Subjective loudness ratings increased with provision of the full bandwidth available; however, real-world trials showed most participants were able to wear the full bandwidth hearing aids with only small adjustments to the prescription method. The majority of participants had either no preference or a preference for the full bandwidth setting.