Introduction: There is great discussion about Direct-to-consumer Hearing Devices (DCHD) and its application for adults with hearing loss. While there is much debate about the potential benefits and limitations, there is limited scientific research in this area. The current study was aimed at understanding the benefits and shortcoming of DCHDs as reported by consumers by analysing the large text corpus of secondary data generated from Amazon user reviews.
Design: Secondary data was generated by manually gathering the user feedback for 63 different DCHDs (cost range $9.95 to $379.99) in Amazon US website, which included 11,258 unique Amazon verified user reviews. The data were analyzed using both qualitative and quantitative methods. First, automated text pattern analysis (i.e., hierarchical clustering based on correspondence analysis) were performed using the open source Iramuteq software to examine the main themes emerging from the larger data corpus (100% of the data). Second, qualitative content analysis was performed on 10% of the data to look for meaningful units within the data.
Results: The cluster analysis of large data corpus resulted in 7 unique clusters, which were named as: (1) Issues related to fit and comfort (15%); (2) Friends and family recommendations (11.8%); (3) Issues related to sound quality (11.9%); (4) Listening and conversation (16.1%); (5) Positive customer service (12.1%); (6) General customer service (14.7%); and (7) Cost and affordability (17.3%). When studying the relation between cluster and rating, overrepresentation of rating 5 was noted in cluster 2 and 7, but underrepresentation of rating 5 was noted in clusters 1 and 3. Also, overrepresentation of user rating 1 was noted in clusters 3 and 6. When studying the relation between clusters and cost, overrepresentation of devices costing $0-50, $101 to 200, and $201 to 500 was noted in cluster 3, cluster 2 and cluster 7 respectively. Also, underrepresentation of devices costing $0-50 was noted in cluster 7. The qualitative content analysis resulted in two main overarching themes, which include: (a) recommended; and (2) not-recommended. Conclusions: The study highlights the benefits and shortcomings of DCHDs which are currently in the US market. These findings relate well to the published study results of electroacoustic analysis. These findings can help clinicians to better issues related to DCHDs and advice the consumers during clinical consultations. The findings may also be of interest to hearing instrument industry from the perspective of developing products, which are developed based on users’ feedback.