Hearing care professionals (HCPs) strive to help their clients overcome the challenges of hearing loss. HCPs recognize that this journey begins by ensuring that the clients understand and accept their hearing loss. They can then guide them through the hearing instrument selection process, and finally counsel them to maximize their benefit from their hearing aids.
Counseling of the clients is necessary along the entire hearing instrument fitting journey. It is important to demonstrate the effects that their hearing loss has on their daily life. It is then easy to show them the benefits that a hearing aid can give them. Incorporating verification and validation of the hearing aid into the fitting process benefits both HCP and the client. When they can see and appreciate the improvement, the clients are more satisfied with their hearing instrument purchase. In a survey conducted by Kochkin (2011), a high correlation was found between user satisfaction and verification and validation of the fitting. However, in the fitting room where counseling and verification and validation take place, the artificial environment makes it challenging to demonstrate the possible benefits of hearing instruments in real-life listening situations. The fitting room is often very quiet, and there is not much reverberation. It may be difficult for the client to appreciate the benefits of a hearing instrument or to measure the benefit of one hearing instrument over another.
The new SoundStudio is a 3D sound engine that simulates real environments and everyday hearing situations in the fitting room. When used, HCPs have an effective tool to steer clients through their hearing loss journey. SoundStudio can be used in a number of ways: to support counseling, to guide hearing instrument selection and first fit verification, and to optimize hearing instrument fine tuning in follow-up visits.
Complex and dynamic listening situations are common in everyday life. These include situations with background noise in which the background noise interferes with the client's ability to hear, understand, and/or pay attention to the signal they want to hear. Many clients who still hear quite well in quiet have problems in complex listening situations. They may not fully understand why they only have difficulty hearing in background noise or the impact it has on their daily life. In this situation, counseling can help them understand the potential benefits of a hearing solution. When the counseling includes demonstrations, explanations are then supported in situ by the listening experience. In a study by Saunders et al. (2009), the authors compared methods of counseling. One group of participants received counseling that included a demonstration of listening situations and the other group just received counseling without a listening demonstration. They found that the most important factor for success with the hearing instruments was, in fact, the counseling independent of the listening demonstrations. However, the authors found that the patients enjoyed the listening demonstrations and daily use of hearing aids was greater for those that received the listening demonstrations. SoundStudio allows to enhance the demonstration by providing various listening environments, called virtual sound scenes, to make the demonstration as close to their everyday life as possible. SoundStudio supports this counseling process by making it possible to simulate complex listening situations directly in the fitting room. Not only can the HCP demonstrate the difference between speech in noise with and without a hearing instrument, but also the difference between hearing instrument options. As HCP transitions into the hearing instrument selection process, HCP can continue to use SoundStudio to help the client choose a hearing solution. In the process of selecting a hearing instrument, the client's needs are evaluated. SoundStudio allows to expose clients to those everyday listening situations that are most important to them.
SoundStudio gives clients an understanding of the listening difficulties they may encounter even with hearing aids. HCP can then counsel them on how to achieve the benefits of the adaptive features in a realistic way. It is a transparent approach that involves clients in a new way, and helps make the fitting and counseling process easier and more streamlined.
SoundStudio can be used for first fittings as well as follow-up fine-tuning appointments. During the first fit sessions, SoundStudio can be used as a verification tool to adjust the feature settings in high priority listening environments, according to the client's specific needs. Verifying the fitting with SoundStudio can help make the first fit more successful, saving time and increasing satisfaction in the early stages of the hearing instrument adoption process. When clients return for a follow-up fitting session, HCPs need to understand and address the clients' feedback about the performance of the hearing instrument in various situations. SoundStudio can recreate the environments in which the client is struggling, and then HCP can fine tune the hearing aid to improve the performance in those specific situations. Kochkin (2007) found that users reported more satisfaction when they received a benefit from their hearing aids in multiple environments.
SoundStudio gives the opportunity to demonstrate to the client the various environments, in which the hearing aids provide benefit. By maximizing the demonstration time the client can be counselled about the use of the hearing aids in the challenging listening situations. They can be prepared for what they should expect and how best to manage difficulties. SoundStudio helps to identify the problematic listening situations and clarify the solutions in simulated sound scenes in the fitting room. The improvement as a result of the fine-tuning measures can be experienced and verified directly during the session.
With SoundStudio, there are so many different options for simulating actual environments and everyday hearing situations in the fitting room. SoundStudio can be used to make the fitting process easier for the HCPs and more helpful for their clients. HCPs take advantage of the SoundStudio experience to support their recommendations in the hearing instrument selection process. Employing SoundStudio saves time and effort in the fitting process for everyone's benefit. Finally, HCPs maximize the benefit of SoundStudio to reduce the number of fitting sessions and the time it takes to achieve client acceptance and satisfaction. HCPs try hearing instruments with their clients together with SoundStudio, so that clients can experience the performance of our hearing instruments in real-life listening situations. Combined, these help HCPs and their clients achieve the optimal results. SoundStudio builds confidence in the fitting and counseling process: confidence in the user that they are making the right choice, and confidence in the HCPs, in the service they provide.
Kochkin, S. 2011. MarkeTrak VIII: Reducing patient visits through verification and validation. The Hearing Review, 18, 6, 10–12. Kochkin, S. 2007. Increasing hearing aid adoption through multiple environmental listening utility. The Hearing Review, 60, 11, 28–31. Saunders, G.H., Lewis, M.S., & Forsline, A. (2009). Expectations, prefitting counseling, and hearing aid outcome. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 20, 5, 320–334.