This research project is in progress. PCORI will post the research findings on this page within 90 days after the results are final.
PCORI has identified hearing loss as an important research topic. Patients, caregivers, clinicians, and others want to learn: How do treatments for mild to moderate age-related hearing loss, such as hearing aids and other supports, compare? To help answer this question, PCORI launched an initiative in 2019 on Treatment Options for Age-Related Hearing Loss. The initiative funded this research project and others.
What is the research about?
Age-related hearing loss affects more than 40 percent of adults over age 60 in the United States. Hearing aids are an effective way to treat hearing loss. But few adults with hearing loss use hearing aids. Until recently, people with hearing loss could only get hearing aids from a healthcare professional with a license to fit hearing aids, such as an audiologist. In 2017, a federal law was passed that allows people buy hearing aids over the counter without seeing an audiologist. Once regulations based on this law are published, people should be able to get hearing aids over the counter.
Researchers have tested ways for people to get hearing aids over the counter and found them to be effective. In this study, the research team is comparing two of these over-the-counter, or OTC, ways for people to get hearing aids with usual care from an audiologist.
Who can this research help?
Once regulations permitting OTC hearing aids are published, results may help
- People with hearing loss decide how to get hearing aids
- Healthcare professionals decide what advice to give their patients
What is the research team doing?
The research team is enrolling 591 people with age-related hearing loss from Chicago, Illinois, and Galveston, Texas, who have never used hearing aids. The team is assigning people by chance to one of the three ways to get a hearing aid.
In the first way, usual care, an audiologist helps the person pick the color and fit of the hearing aids; then they adjust the settings to match the person’s hearing loss. This way doesn’t involve getting hearing aids over the counter.
In the second and third ways, people get hearing aids over the counter, without help from an audiologist. The person uses a tablet computer to select the color and fit of the hearing aids. The person then compares different settings on the hearing aids while playing different sounds through the tablet. The tablet guides the person to choose the setting they like the most. In the second way, the person can compare different volume settings. In the third way, the person can compare settings for both volume and pitch.
People in the study are filling out surveys six weeks and six months after they start using hearing aids. The surveys ask people how well they hear in different settings and how much hearing loss affects their quality of life. The research team is comparing these outcomes for people in the three groups.
People with hearing loss, audiologists, and representatives from the hearing industry are giving the research team feedback on the study.
Research methods at a glance
Other Health Services Interventions
Training and Education Interventions