Current criteria used to determine eligibility for rehabilitative hearing services (particularly device fitting) in Australia focus heavily on audiometric thresholds. However, studies into the predictors of benefit from hearing aid fitting show that while pure tone thresholds do predict help-seeking behaviours, they do not strongly predict the benefit that users receive.
The aim of this study is to develop recommendations on evidence-based eligibility criteria for the provision of hearing devices to people experiencing hearing difficulty. The specific objectives are: (1) to understand key challenges from stakeholders about hearing aid eligibility based on current Australian criteria; (2) to identify predictors of successful hearing aid fitting in existing clinical and research datasets; (3) to identify predictors of successful hearing rehabilitation among clients fitted with hearing aids under a national Australian hearing services program; and (4) to identify the economic impact of using revised eligibility criteria compared to the existing criteria.
This multi-stage mixed-methods project comprises five main phases: (1) a series of interviews and workshops with stakeholders in the Australian hearing services sector; (2) analysis of existing hearing aid fitting outcomes datasets collected in research and clinical settings around the world; (3) collection of predictors and outcomes data for hearing aid fittings being conducted under a national Australian hearing services program; (4) the synthesis of results from previous phases into a predictive model for hearing aid benefit and revised eligibility criteria for the provision of hearing aids; and (5) a health economic evaluation of the revised eligibility criteria.
This study is ongoing. Preliminary results of the study will be presented.
The establishment of evidence-based criteria for the provision of hearing devices to people experiencing hearing difficulty will assist clinicians and policymakers to target services to those clients who are most likely to gain benefit from them.