A qualitative exploration of the impact of mild hearing loss in adults

Chief investigator
Rosemary Monk

Study team
Dr Melanie Ferguson (NHBRU)
Dr Alex Barker (NHBRU)
Eithne Heffernan (NHBRU)

NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU

Study period
April 2016 – Feb 2017


NHS Commissioners have recently reviewed, and in some cases withdrawn hearing aid provision for people where pure tone audiometry (PTA) indicates the presence of a mild hearing loss. People with mild hearing loss can report significant activity limitations and participation restrictions, and there are weak relationships between PTA thresholds and self-report of participation restrictions and activity limitations. Identifying the key difficulties associated with mild hearing loss is essential to identifying appropriate management options for people who experience difficulties in communicating in everyday life.

Questionnaires are often used to investigate the consequences of hearing loss, mainly self-reported hearing difficulties or health related quality of life measures. There are some problems with these approaches: quality of life measures lack sensitivity to the effects of hearing loss, and self-report questionnaires can include contextual questions that are redundant for some individuals. In addition, the questions contained in self-report questionnaires were often generated by researchers without input from those with hearing loss and may not truly reflect their experience of hearing loss. There are few qualitative investigations into the experience of hearing loss and, to date, none that specifically investigate the impact of mild hearing loss.

This research will use qualitative methods to investigate the experiences of people with mild hearing loss, its impact on daily life and coping strategies used. Results will be compared with those who have moderate hearing loss.

Semi-structured interview transcriptions, audiograms and measures of self-report of difficulty have been collected from 25 adults with mild and moderate hearing impairment ( see Heffernan et al, Int J Audiol, 2016). Thematic analysis will be used to explore the interview data from those who had mild and those who had moderate hearing loss to identify key themes. Similarities and differences between the two groups will also be explored within the context of clinical assessment and management, particularly with reference to perceptions of hearing aids and their use.

For more information, please contact Rosemary Monk

Paper published by Eithne Heffernan in the International Journal of Audiology