Manchaiah, V., Picou, E.M., Bailey, A., & Rodrigo, H.
Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, In Press.
Publication year: 2021

Background: Modern hearing aids have various features and functionalities, such as digital wireless streaming, bilateral connectivity, rechargeability, and specialized programs, which allow for a multitude of hearing aid attributes (e.g., comfort, reliability, clarity). Consumers likely vary greatly in their preferences for these hearing aid attributes. Their preferences might be related to various demographic and hearing loss characteristics.

Purpose: The purposes of this study were to describe which hearing aid attributes consumers find desirable when choosing their hearing aids and to explore factors that might predict preferences.

Research Design: Cross-sectional.

Study Sample: 14,993 consumer reviews.

Intervention: Not applicable.

Data Collection and Analysis: In this retrospective study, hearing aid attribute preferences were evaluated from consumers who answered questions in the Help Me Choose tool on the HearingTracker.com website. Chi square tests and correlation analyses were used to identify potential relationships between attribute preference and respondent characteristics. Cluster analysis with Partitioning Around Medoids (PAM) was used to identify patterns of attribute preferences.

Results: Of the 21 hearing aid attributes queried, the four most favorably rated were: improved ability to hear friends and family in quiet and in noisy settings, physical comfort, and reliability, with 75-88% of respondents rating these attributes as very or extremely important. Type of hearing loss, technology level preference, and mobile phone brand were significantly associated with preferences for all 21 hearing aid attributes. PAM cluster analysis unveiled two unique user groups based on their preference to hearing aid attributes. One third of the respondents preferred high-end technology and favored all types of advanced attributes. The other two thirds of users predominantly preferred either advanced or best match and were more selective about which attributes were most important to them.

Conclusion: Patterns in preferences to hearing aid attributes help identify unique subgroups of consumers. Patient preferences for specific hearing aid attributes, in addition to audiologic characteristics, could help audiologists in recommending hearing aids for their patients.