J Am Acad Audiol 2016; 27(04): 293-310
DOI: 10.3766/jaaa.14076
American Academy of Audiology. All rights reserved. (2016) American Academy of Audiology

Hearing Aid Benefit in Patients with Mild Sensorineural Hearing Loss: A Systematic Review

Carole E. Johnson
Jeffrey L. Danhauer
Blakely B. Ellis
Anna Marie Jilla
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06. August 2020 (online)

Background: Untreated sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is associated with chronic health-care conditions, isolation, loneliness, and reduced quality of life. Although hearing aids can minimize the negative effects of SNHL, only about one in five persons with SNHL seeks help for communication problems. Many persons wait 10 yr or more from the time they first notice a problem before pursuing amplification. Further, little information about the benefits of amplification is available for persons with mild SNHL (MSNHL), who likely defer treatment even longer.

Purpose: To conduct a systematic review to weigh the evidence regarding benefits derived from the use of amplification by adults with MSNHL.

Research Design: Systematic review with meta-analysis.

Study Sample: Adult hearing aid wearers with bilateral average pure-tone thresholds ≤45 dB HL at 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz.

Data Collection and Analysis: PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied-Health Literature, Cochrane Collaboration, and Google Scholar were searched independently by the authors during September 2013. The authors used a consensus approach to assess the quality and extract data for the meta-analysis.

Results: Of 106 articles recovered for full-text review, only 10 met inclusion criteria (at least Level IV of evidence and involved and reported separate pre-/postfitting hearing aid outcomes for patients with MSNHL). Included studies involved mainly middle-aged to elderly patients using hearing aids of various styles and circuitry. Results from all of the studies indicated positive benefits from amplification for patients with MSNHL. Data from five studies were suitable for a meta-analysis, which produced a small-to-medium effect size of 0.85 (95% confidence intervals = 0.44–1.25) after adjusting for a small publication bias. This evidence confirmed benefits from the use of amplification in adults with MSNHL.

Conclusions: Evidence exists supporting the notion that adults with MSNHL benefit from hearing aids. This information is important and useful to audiologists, patients, and third-party payers, even considering that most of the studies in this systematic review were limited, somewhat dated, and used analog and early digital technology available when the studies were conducted. Clinical recommendations may be even stronger as future studies become available for patients fit with modern styles and high-technology hearing aids.