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Do Patients Know How to Manipulate Their Hearing Aids?


 l   Desjardins and Doherty (2009) created the Practical Hearing Aid Skills Test (PHAST) to evaluate hearing aid users with regard to their ability to manipulate their hearing aids. The PHAST is based on eight basic hearing aid care and use-based tasks: (1) inserting the hearing aid, (2) removing the hearing aid, (3) opening battery door, (4) changing battery, (5) cleaning the aid, (6) adjusting the volume control, (7) using the aid with a telephone, and (8) engaging noise reduction program or directional microphone. The PHAST takes about 10 minutes to administer.

Fifty hearing aid wearers (27 men, 23 women) participated in the study. The average age of the participants was 75 years. Each participant had more than one year's experience wearing hearing aids and each participant passed a mental health screening. Each participant reported that he or she was the person responsible for the care of the hearing aid(s). None of the participants in this study had automatic/adaptive hearing aids. Eleven clinics, five hearing aid dealers and 10 audiologists were involved in the study.

Percentage correct scoring was based on 90-100% = excellent, 80-89% = good, 65-79% = fair, less than 65% = poor. A score between 90 and 100 percent meant the participant could not complete one of the eight tasks or performed several tasks less than excellent. A score between 80 and 90 percent meant the participant could not complete two or more tasks completely or performed less than excellent on a number of tasks. A score between 65 and 79 percent meant the participant could not complete three or more tasks completely, or performed less than excellent on a number of tasks. Lastly, if the participant could not perform three or more tasks, he or she was considered a poor performer.

Participant scores ranged from 48 to 100 percent (mean score = 79%, std dev = 12%). None of the participants performed below satisfactory performance on hearing aid removal or opening the battery door. The worst performance was evident with regard to using the telephone (3/4ths of all participants could not use the telephone and hearing aid together satisfactorily), cleaning the hearing aid (90% of those who scored poorly on this task did not clean the microphone port) and using the noise reduction (or directional) program. The only variable significantly correlated with PHAST score was age. In general, older participants performed less well than did younger participants. Desjardins and Doherty note that older participants are likely less able to process and store information presented to them during their hearing aid orientation.

 Through a questionnaire, the participants were asked if they knew how to use their hearing aids well. Ninety-six percent reported they did know how to use their hearing aids well, 88 percent reported they knew how to clean them. Yet only 48 percent demonstrated excellent or good performance on the PHAST and only 38 percent scored satisfactory or excellent on the PHAST cleaning skill task.

    The authors stated, "Clearly, there is a mismatch between hearing aid users' perceived ability to manipulate their hearing aids and their actual ability to perform the tasks..."

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