Background: Although guidelines for fitting hearing aids for children are well developed and have strong basis in evidence, specific protocols for fitting and verifying some technologies are not always available. One such technology is noise management in children’s hearing aids. Children are frequently in high-level and/or noisy environments, and many options for noise management exist in modern hearing aids. Verification protocols are needed to define specific test signals and levels for use in clinical practice.
Purpose: This work aims to (1) describe the variation in different brands of noise reduction processors in hearing aids and the verification of these processors and (2) determine whether these differences are perceived by 13 children who have hearing loss. Finally, we aimed to develop a verification protocol for use in pediatric clinical practice.
Study Sample: A set of hearing aids was tested using both clinically available test systems and a reference system, so that the impacts of noise reduction signal processing in hearing aids could be characterized for speech in a variety of background noises. A second set of hearing aids was tested across a range of audiograms and across two clinical verification systems to characterize the variance in clinical verification measurements. Finally, a set of hearing aid recordings that varied by type of noise reduction was rated for sound quality by children with hearing loss.
Results: Significant variation across makes and models of hearing aids was observed in both the speed of noise reduction activation and the magnitude of noise reduction. Reference measures indicate that noise-only testing may overestimate noise reduction magnitude compared to speech-in-noise testing. Variation across clinical test signals was also observed, indicating that some test signals may be more successful than others for characterization of hearing aid noise reduction. Children provided different sound quality ratings across hearing aids, and for one hearing aid rated the sound quality as higher with the noise reduction system activated.
Conclusions: Implications for clinical verification systems may be that greater standardization and the use of speech-in-noise test signals may improve the quality and consistency of noise reduction verification cross clinics. A suggested clinical protocol for verification of noise management in children’s hearing aids is suggested.