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Hearing Aid and Telephone Systems: What Works Best? 

People with moderate-to-severe sensorineural hearing loss (mod-sev SNHL) face significant challenges, while listening on the telephone. Picou and Ricketts (2013) evaluated 18 adult participants (10 males, 8 females, aged 49 to 88 years, mean age 70 years) with mod-sev SNHL across multiple listening strategies in noisy backgrounds. The participants had an average of 12 years listening experience with amplification.

The six listening strategies included three unilateral telephone conditions and one bilateral telephone condition (unilateral acoustic telephone with contralateral ear amplified or plugged, unilateral telecoil with contralateral ear amplified or plugged, unilateral wireless streaming, and bilateral wireless streaming). Of note, whether the contralateral ear was plugged or amplified made very little difference. The Connected Speech Test (CST) served as the test material. The worse performance was noted while using an acoustic telephone. The very best performance was acquired while using bilateral wireless streaming. Of note, unilateral T-coil and unilateral wireless streaming performance varied, but results (for these two conditions) were similar. The T-coil and unilateral wireless streaming strategies were (generally) better than acoustic telephone listening, but not as good as bilateral wireless streaming. Indeed, bilateral wireless streaming provided the best performance with regard to ease of listening and comfort and superior speech recognition.

Picou and Ricketts report their results support significant (and similar) bilateral advantages (across a wide range of hearing loss) and speculate any technology, which sends the telephone signal to both ears can be expected to provide a significant advantage over unilateral techniques.

For More Information, References, and Recommendations

Picou EM, Ricketts TA. (2013) Efficacy of Hearing-Aid Based Telephone Strategies for Listeners with Moderate-to-Severe Hearing Loss. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology (JAAA) 24:59-70.