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What Factors Drive Patient Success with First-time Amplification?

Donald J. Schum, PhD

March 11, 2013

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Question

I am trying to lower the hearing aid return-for-credit rate in my practice, but it seems like there are only so many aspects of the fitting that I, as the professional, can control.  How can manufacturers help us to keep return for credits to a minimum?  Do you have any suggestions?

Answer

Hearing care professionals certainly recognize that first-time fittings are at risk throughout the course of the first month and beyond. Although we expect the typical patient to experience a minimal amount of side effects and immediately improved speech understanding, as a manufacturer we also want to take care in the design process to guard against reliability and comfort issues that can emerge later in the fitting.

Data indicate that, traditionally, a significant number of newly-fit devices end up being returned or simply not being used (Kochkin, 2000).  Hearing care professionals tend to want to focus on the functional benefits of the newly-fit hearing instruments right from the start. However, the patient’s agenda may be different.  We believe that the agenda of the typical first-time user follows a specific order over time.  

Given the tentative nature of the patient commitment to the fitting process, negative experiences can quickly demotivate the patient. Oticon Intiga was developed specifically with three important domains in mind: appearance, initial acceptance and performance in key listening situations. Some patients will not give the hearing care professional the full 30-day trial period before deciding that amplification is not for them. Patients may talk themselves out of getting hearing instruments even before they have the trial listening experience. If the process moves to the point of a trial fitting, it is of the utmost importance that every aspect of the patient’s initial experiences is positive.

As pointed out in Schum, Weile and Behrens (2011), if potential new users are managed properly, they will have a positive attitude about the fitting process from day one. However, their expectations may not fully reflect the reality of using hearing instruments. They may not be prepared for the feel of devices on their head or the sounds of newly amplified signals. They also may be expecting immediately-improved performance. If their expectations are not met, some of the lingering reluctance that they felt when they first entered the process may re-emerge.

Oticon Intiga addresses this issue by providing a range of specific features in order to meet three patient-driven expectations: discreetness, acceptance and performance. The heart of the device provides the culmination of Oticon’s very best approaches to signal processing, including Speech Guard, Spatial Sound and Artificial Intelligence. The physical and acoustic design of the product is such to make it as easy as possible for the first-time user to accept Oticon Intiga as the path to better communication performance.  We hope that by continuing to innovate with devices like Oticon Intiga, hearing aid manufacturers can support professionals by not only reducing hearing aid returns for credit, but most importantly, improving consumers’ satisfaction with hearing aids.

For more information about how Oticon Intiga can help with consumers’ acceptance of amplification, please view my article, The Audiology of Oticon Intiga.  Thank you for your question.

References

Kochkin, S. (2000). MarkeTrak V: “Why my hearing instruments are in the drawer:” The consumer’s perspective. Hearing Journal, 53, 34-42.

Oticon A/S, spring 2010, international First Time User Insights study, carried through in cooperation with DecisionLab, Denmark.

Schum, D., Weile, J. & Behrens, T. (2011). New insights into first-time users. Oticon White Paper.


donald j schum

Donald J. Schum, PhD

Vice President of Audiology and Professional Relations

Don Schum currently serves as Vice President for Audiology & Professional Relations for Oticon, Inc. Previous to his position at Oticon in Somerset, Don served as the Director of Audiology for the main Oticon office in Copenhagen Denmark. In addition, he served as the Director of the Hearing Aid Lab at the University of Iowa, School of Medicine (1990-1995) and as an Assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina (1988-1990). During his professional career, Dr. Schum has been an active researcher in the areas of Hearing Aids, Speech Understanding, and Outcome Measures. (B.S. in Speech & Hearing Science, University of Illinois M.A. in Audiology, University of Iowa Ph.D. in Audiology, Louisiana State University.)


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