The relationship of speech perception performance and cognitive function over time in first-time hearing aid users

Chief investigator

Dr Helen Henshaw

Study team

Dr Melanie Ferguson

Dr Antje Heinrich

Funder

NIHR Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit

Study period

2015 - 2017

Background and rationale

The most common intervention for individuals with an age-related hearing loss is amplification with hearing aids. The primary objective of a hearing aid fitting is to make speech sounds audible, particularly in quiet listening environments. However, hearing aid users tend to find listening to speech in noise, which calls upon both auditory and cognitive resources, particularly challenging. The process of learning to use the new sound provided by hearing aids is known as acclimatisation. Previous research has measured acclimatisation by assessing individuals’ speech perception performance. However, evidence for a clinically significant effect for acclimatisation using speech measures is mixed. Investigating the role of cognition in speech perception performance, in particular specific aspects of working memory and executive processing, offers a novel approach to assess acclimatisation to hearing aids.

The aim of this study is to investigate the relationship of speech perception performance and cognitive function over time in first-time hearing aid users.

Methods

A longitudinal study will identify the cognitive components required for successful speech perception in listeners newly fitted with hearing aids, and the amount of cognitive processing required as the listener becomes more accustomed to the amplified auditory input.

Future Directions

Building on the first study, a second study will explore whether the rate of acclimatisation, and outcomes measures used to measure benefits may be improved using an auditory-cognitive training intervention.