Summary of outcomes of focus group discussions with hearing-impaired persons

Here we highlight some of the comments of the sample of German hearing-impaired adults recruited into the focus groups.

There were 6 participants who had used hearing aids for periods of between 4 and 40 years, and a further 8 participants who have had hearing impairments for up to 15 years, but have not made regular use of hearing aids.

  • Non-users of hearing aids attached little importance to interviews aimed at “gathering individual problems/objectives” and “integrating the family”.
  • This same group appeared to attach high importance to psychoacoustic measures of loudness scaling and sound localisation, and to speech tests in noise. This might be due to the fact that in this group some participants have considerable problems with spatial hearing and hope for better diagnostics through these procedures.
  • The hearing aid users attributed high importance to pure-tone audiometry. Presumably they consider this procedure as a basic entrance into hearing aid fitting.
  • We thought it very important that both hearing aid users and non-users rated the importance of checking the intelligibility of speech in noise or in quiet much higher than did the hearing aid dispensers taking part in comparable focus group discussions. We conclude that this relates to the obvious fact that the ability to communicate is very important for the hearing impaired, and that they regard the direct assessment of this to be of great significance.
  • In hearing aid fitting, hearing-impaired persons attached high importance to the “subjective selection of preferred hearing aid”. The non-users of hearing aids placed much emphasis on the search for the best hearing aid (a number of them have searched without success). All of the hearing-impaired participants estimated the possibility to test at least 3 hearing aids as especially important. “Finding” the right hearing aid seems to be very important, more important than verifying if the fitted aid is right or to optimally fit a “first-guess” hearing aid.
  • Rating hearing aids with questionnaires was ranked relatively low in importance by the hearing-impaired participants. This may reflect the view that finding the right hearing aid seems more important than verifying if the selected aid is actually the right one. Experienced hearing aid users estimated the test of the hearing aids in everyday life as very important.
  • When the time taken for hearing aid provision was discussed, the hearing impaired participants generally would readily invest “all time of the world” if it led to an improved result.