Is the future of hearing aids in a flatpack? Issues of clinical support for self-fitting hearing aids
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Self-fitting hearing aids (SFHAs) are gaining ground in the online marketplace, where they are often marketed as a low-cost alternative to traditional hearing health care (HHC). A recent evaluation of a commercially available SFHA, however, demonstrated that even when assistance with the task was available from a family member, 45% of the study participants were unable to successfully complete the self-fitting procedure. As part of an ongoing field trial investigating the setup, management, and fitting outcomes of SFHAs among adults with bilateral mild-to-moderate hearing loss, we are aiming to test the hypothesis that knowledgeablesupport could mean the difference between success and failure with a SFHA. The existing HHC system has the clinical capacity to deliver such support, which would allow SFHAs to become a viable, low-cost rehabilitation option. As an added advantage, support could be provided by a trained paraprofessional, enabling the audiologist's time to be more efficiently allocated to clients with more complex needs.