An Electroacoustic Analysis of Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Purpose To determine whether 11 over-the-counter (OTC) hearing devices have the flexibility to provide adequate gain and output for 3 common hearing loss configurations. Method The 11 OTC hearing devices were separated into 2 price groups: a low-range group (<$100) consisting of 8 hearing devices and a midrange ... Clinical Focus: Innovation
Clinical Focus: Innovation  |   June 01, 2008
An Electroacoustic Analysis of Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Susanna Løve Callaway
    Copenhagen University, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Jerry L. Punch
    Michigan State University, East Lansing
  • Contact author: Jerry L. Punch, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824. E-mail: jpunch@msu.edu.
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants & Assistive Technology / Clinical Focus / Innovations
Clinical Focus: Innovation   |   June 01, 2008
An Electroacoustic Analysis of Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids
American Journal of Audiology, June 2008, Vol. 17, 14-24. doi:10.1044/1059-0889(2008/003)
History: Received September 19, 2007 , Accepted April 1, 2008
 
American Journal of Audiology, June 2008, Vol. 17, 14-24. doi:10.1044/1059-0889(2008/003)
History: Received September 19, 2007; Accepted April 1, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 6

Purpose To determine whether 11 over-the-counter (OTC) hearing devices have the flexibility to provide adequate gain and output for 3 common hearing loss configurations.

Method The 11 OTC hearing devices were separated into 2 price groups: a low-range group (<$100) consisting of 8 hearing devices and a midrange group ($100–$500) consisting of 3 hearing devices. Gain and output were prescribed for 3 hearing loss configurations using National Acoustic Laboratories prescriptive procedures. Low-range hearing devices were measured electroacoustically, and technical specifications were used as the source of electroacoustic information for the midrange hearing devices.

Results Overall, midrange hearing devices met gain and output targets to a greater extent than did low-range devices. All low-range devices could be classified as special-purpose hearing aids with low-frequency emphasis. The low-range group had high equivalent input noise levels and potentially posed a residual hearing safety hazard.

Conclusions The low-range OTC devices were found to be electroacoustically inadequate to meet the needs of the hearing impaired. Midrange OTC hearing devices are arguably a good solution for the cost-conscious consumer who cannot afford professional audiologic rehabilitation, especially if considered an interim step in the rehabilitation process.

Acknowledgments
This research project was completed by the first author as a thesis to fulfill the requirements for the master’s degree at Copenhagen University, Denmark, under the primary direction of the second author. The first author wishes to thank Copenhagen University for its academic and administrative support, and Niels Reinholt Petersen, PhD, who served as thesis co-adviser at Copenhagen University. Kristina Frye and Sabrina Stein of Frye Electronics, Tigard, OR, are gratefully acknowledged for loaning the authors the Fonix 7000 hearing aid analyzer, and for advising on electroacoustic measurements of special-purpose hearing aids. We thank the Oticon Foundation, William Demants og Hustru Ida Emilies Fond, for a research grant that provided financial support for this project. AmpliEar, Bell+Howell Sonic Earz, HearPod Hearing Aids, MagniEar+, MaxiSound, NaturEar, and Woodland Whisper are claimed as trademarks by their respective companies.
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