Objectives: This study explored the meaning and determinants of optimal hearing aid use from the perspectives of hearing aid clients and audiologists. An additional objective was to contrast the perspectives of the clients and audiologists.
Design: Four focus groups were conducted: (1) clients (n = 7) in Denmark, (2) clients (n = 10) in the United Kingdom, (3) audiologists (n = 6) in Denmark, and (4) audiologists (n = 7) in the United Kingdom. Clients owned hearing aids and audiologists had regular contact with clients. The focus group facilitators used a topic guide to generate the participants' views on optimal hearing aid use. The focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, translated into English if conducted in Danish, and qualitatively analyzed with content analysis.
Results: Both clients and audiologists described optimal hearing aid use as being frequent and regular and driven by the individual needs of the clients. When describing determinants of optimal hearing aid use, both clients and audiologists mentioned the role of the client (e.g., adjustment to hearing aids), the role of the audiologist (e.g., audiologic practice and profession), and the role of the hearing aid (e.g., benefits and limitations of the hearing aid). They both highlighted the importance of client access to information. However, how clients and audiologists described the influence of these determinants varied somewhat. Clients emphasized the role of the hearing aid in achieving optimal hearing aid use. From a client perspective, hearing aids that performed well and had relevant features were most central. In contrast, audiologists emphasized the role of a good client-audiologist relationship in achieving optimal hearing aid use. From the audiologist's perspective, audiologists who were able to understand the needs of the clients and to instruct clients appropriately were most central.
Conclusions: This study highlights similarities and differences in how clients and audiologists describe optimal hearing aid use and its determinants. It is commendable that audiologists acknowledge the importance of the client-audiologist relationship, but given clients' focus on hearing aids, audiologists might wish to describe more explicitly to their clients how their intervention can extend beyond provision of the optimal hearing aid.