Vercammen, C., Oosthuizen, I., Manchaiah, V., Launer, S., Ratinaud, P., & Swanepoel, D.W.
Frontiers in Digital Health, 5, 1104308.
Publication year: 2023

Smartphone technology can provide an effective means to bring real-life and (near-)real-time feedback from hearing aid wearers into the clinic. Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) encourages listeners to report on their experiences during or shortly after they take place in order to minimize recall bias, e.g., guided by surveys in a mobile application. Allowing listeners to describe experiences in their own words, further, ensures that answers are independent of predefined jargon or of how survey questions are formulated. Through these means, one can obtain ecologically valid sets of data, for instance during a hearing aid trial, which can support clinicians to assess the needs of their clients, provide directions for fine-tuning, and counselling. At a larger scale, such datasets would facilitate training of machine learning algorithms that could help hearing technology to anticipate user needs. In this retrospective, exploratory analysis of a clinical data set, we performed a cluster analysis on 8,793 open-text statements, which were collected through self-initiated EMAs, provided by 2,301 hearing aid wearers as part of their hearing care. Our aim was to explore how listeners describe their daily life experiences with hearing technology in (near-)real-time, in their own words, by identifying emerging themes in the reports. We also explored whether identified themes correlated with the nature of the experiences, i.e., self-reported satisfaction ratings indicating a positive or negative experience. Results showed that close to 60% of listeners’ reports related to speech intelligibility in challenging situations and sound quality dimensions, and tended to be valued as positive experiences. In comparison, close to 40% of reports related to hearing aid management, and tended to be valued as negative experiences. This first report of open-text statements, collected through self-initiated EMAs as part of clinical practice, shows that EMA comes with a participant burden, but that at least a subsample of motivated hearing aid wearers could use these novel tools to provide feedback to inform more responsive, personalized, and family-centered hearing care. This suggests opportunities for large-scale data collections to facilitate training of machine learning algorithms, which would foster hearing technology to anticipate user needs.