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Rehabilitative Online Education versus Internet Discussion Group for Hearing Aid Users: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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Background:

By using the Internet in the audiological rehabilitation process, it might be possible in a cost-effective way to include additional rehabilitation components by informing and guiding hearing aid users about such topics as communication strategies, hearing tactics, and how to handle hearing aids.

Purpose:

To evaluate the effectiveness of an online education program for adult experienced hearing aid users including professional guidance by an audiologist and compare it with the effects of participation in an online discussion forum without any professional contact.

Research Design:

A randomized controlled study with two groups of participants. Repeated measures at prestudy, immediate follow-up, and a 6 mo follow-up.

Study Sample:

Fifty-nine experienced hearing aid users participated in the study, ranging in age from 24 to 84 yr (mean 63.5 yr).

Intervention:

The intervention group (N = 29) underwent a five-week rehabilitative online education in which activities for each week included information, tasks, and assignments, and contact with a professional audiologist was included. The participants in the control group (N = 30) were referred to an online discussion forum without any audiologist contact.

Data Collection and Analysis:

A set of questionnaires administered online were used as outcome measures: (1) Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly, (2) International Outcome Inventory for Hearing Aids, (3) Satisfaction with Amplification in Daily Life, and (4) Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.

Results:

Significant improvements measured by the Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly were found in both groups of participants, and the effects were maintained at the 6 mo follow-up. The results on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale showed that the participants in the intervention group showed reduced symptoms of depression immediately/6 mo after the intervention. At the 6 mo follow-up participants in the control group reported fewer symptoms of anxiety than they did before the intervention started.

Conclusions:

This study provides preliminary evidence that the Internet can be used to deliver education to experienced hearing aid users who report residual hearing problems such that their problems are reduced by the intervention. The study also suggests that online discussion forums could be used in rehabilitation. A combination of online professional supervised education and online informal discussions could be a promising rehabilitation tool.
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Keywords: Counseling; Internet; duty to recontact; hearing loss; outcome assessment; rehabilitation of hearing impaired

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Linköping University 2: Department of Clinical Sciences, Logopedics, Phoniatrics, Audiology, Lund University 3: Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linköping University

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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