13 March 2014

Rehabilitation programmes on the internet for hearing-aid users reduce hearing-related problems, and increase participation and
psychological well-being. 

Over 5% of the world’s population has some type of hearing impairment. This makes hearing impairments one of the most common disabilities.

“Beside the obvious negative effects of hearing impairment, like not understanding speech or hearing music clearly, often there are also indirect consequences. When it is difficult to communicate with others, people feel lonely, isolated and frustrated,” says Elisabet Sundewall Thorén of Linköping University.

She recently defended her thesis about internet support for the hearing impaired. One thing she did was to conduct studies to evaluate an internet-based rehabilitation programme. The programme lasted five weeks and included different elements, such as self-study and professional supervision by an audiologist.

“The studies show that with the aid of a structured, internet-based rehabilitation programme, hearing aid users experience less inconvenience from hearing-related problems than they did before they took part in the study,” says Ms Sundewall Thorén

In the rehabilitation programme, participants were encouraged to try out difficult situations, like parties, meetings and so on where there are many sources of sound at one time. The idea was that they would find out where they should place themselves optimally in a room in order to hear best.

“We also stress the importance of repeatedly explaining to colleagues and friends how they can be aware and help a hearing-aid user.”

The findings were that participants in the study felt more involved in things and that their psychological well-being improved.

Improvements continued, according to the results of follow-up meetings three months after the study had finished.

“My thesis shows that people can benefit from audiological rehabilitation carried out on the internet,” says Ms Sundewall Thorén.

In her thesis “Internet interventions for hearing loss. Examining rehabilitation, self report measures and internet use for hearing-aid users.”
Elisabet Sundewall Thorén also shows that older people with hearing impairments use the internet more than the average member of the population. Apart from that, hearing-aid users also use computers, the internet and email the same amount as everyone else.