Innovations Paper: Resound Hearing Aids

Introduction

ReSound, the Denmark-based hearing device manufacturer, has introduced significant innovations in hearing care. Hearing care is a young field of medicine — for instance, analog hearing aid technology emerged only in the 1930s, and digital technology did not arrive until the beginning of the 21st century (Wallhagen & Reed, 2018). ReSound offers digital hearing aid devices, which do not simply make sounds louder but also allow settings customization and connection with other digital devices, such as smartphones and tablets. During that process, the digital hearing aid’s amplifier acts as a smart processor, capable of wireless Internet connection. As a result, the user can customize their hearing experience and control sound level discreetly. Unlike the analog hearing aids, which makes everything, including unwanted background sounds, louder, the digital hearing aid’s miniaturized processor can amplify particular frequency bands depending on the programming settings. In addition, the Internet connection allows the user to adjust the sound of any other digital resource they might be using.

ReSound One digital hearing aid
Figure 1. ReSound One digital hearing aid

Moreover, the digital technology used in ReSound hearing devices opens various future possibilities for hearing care professionals.

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This constant wireless Internet access creates unexplored yet exciting opportunities for hearing care professionals and hearing device users. In the future, hearing care professionals and users will connect remotely for services such as diagnosis, device troubleshooting, and support through cloud computing. (Laplante-Lévesque et al., 2016, p. 260).

Furthermore, ergonomic hearing aids like ReSound can be used for the integration of sensors, which monitor users’ health data in real-time, such as accelerometers, thermometers, and gyroscopes (Laplante-Lévesque et al., 2016). Therefore, digital solutions in hearing care provided by ReSound have the potential to improve the quality of life. The cons of this innovation are relatively high market prices and a possible lack of technology understanding on the patients’ and nurses’ part.

Quality

The main impetus for improvements in hearing aid technology lies in the prevalence of hearing loss and its associated damage. The issue of hearing loss is universal, as it is widespread across the world. For example, approximately 38 million individuals in the USA over the age of 12 have some form of hearing loss (Dornhoffer et al., 2020). In Europe, 52 million people aged over 65 years, or 10% of the entire Europe’s population, self-reported hearing impairment (Borsetto et al., 2021). According to Schmucker et al. (2019), 22,6 million people within the European Union are affected by severe, disabling hearing loss, which leads to annual economic costs of 185 billion Euros. Given these numbers, it is essential to provide people who experience hearing loss with effective solutions in hearing care.

It is necessary to note that even the basic, traditional hearing aid devices improve patient care quality and treatment outcomes. For instance, the 12-month chronic tinnitus treatment with hearing aids led to significant improvement in outcomes for 10 of 21 patients, or 47,6% (Noguchi et al., 2021). Their tinnitus functional index (TFI) decreased by at least 13 points by the end of the treatment (Noguchi et al., 2021). In addition, the patient’s total tinnitus handicap inventory (THI) score was significantly higher at the start of the treatment (Noguchi et al., 2021). However, hearing aids used in the study did not have a confirmed positive impact on relaxation and quality of life subscales (Noguchi et al., 2021). In this regard, ReSound digital hearing aid devices with flexible setting customization can further improve the outcomes by boosting the patient’s relaxation and quality of life by amplifying only desirable sounds.

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Hearing aids are often preferable to other methods of hearing restoration in terms of patient safety. For example, hearing restoration and balance improvement with a cochlear implant (CI) can lead to dangerous adverse effects, such as acute serous labyrinthitis and endolymphatic hydrops (Borsetto et al., 2021). As a result, the treatment via CI can cause a worsening of the patient’s balance instead of improving it. On the contrary, Borestto et al. (2021) stated that “HAs are generally very well tolerated with a low rate of adverse events (p. 215). In addition, sophisticated processing algorithms used in ReSound digital hearing devices can further improve the quality of patients’ auditory rehabilitation, making them less prone to imbalance and falls. This possibility is especially important for elderly patients, who are more vulnerable to age-related imbalance due to the loss of audiological cues.

Finally, even traditional hearing aids appeared to have a positive impact on audiology measures and patient-reported benefits. According to Dornhoffer et al. (2020), the use of hearing aids led to significant improvements in all audiology measures and Abbreviated Profile of Hearing Benefit (APHAB) scores. Given that positive impact was traced after using traditional hearing aids, smart programming of ReSound hearing aid devices can increase patient benefits even further. The exact values can be traced with such audiologic measures as word recognition in quiet (NU-6), speech perception in noise (SPIN), and pure-tone thresholds (PTA). In addition, the effectiveness of ReSound solutions in hearing care can be further checked through patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs). This combined approach would allow evaluating both objective audiologic metrics and patient satisfaction with a modern technological solution to hearing care.

Overall, ReSound digital hearing aids have the potential to improve patient’s safety, quality of life, and overall satisfaction with treatment. The patients will be able to wear ergonomic, user-friendly devices for a longer time, which would positively affect their outcomes. ReSound hearing devices will also improve the quality of communication and relaxation available to people diagnosed with hearing loss by filtering out unwanted noise. The exact benefits can be measured via audiologic metrics and direct reports of perceived benefits from the patients.

Stakeholders

When it comes to possible stakeholders of such healthcare innovations as ReSound digital hearing aids, it is possible to identify four major groups which would benefit the most. First of all, ReSound devices will be beneficial for patients of all ages, especially for older adults who are more susceptible to hearing loss. Digital hearing aids will improve their quality of life even in comparison to traditional hearing devices. In addition, the patients will achieve better treatment outcomes for conditions such as tinnitus and balance loss. In the case of younger patients, ReSound devices will facilitate their communicative abilities and enhance the quality of relaxation, making them more willing to use hearing aids. For example, only 32% of German children and adolescents with self-reported hearing loss used hearing aids (Schmucker et al., 2019). User-friendly, almost invisible hearing aids with a wireless Internet connection to other digital devices would likely turn that situation for the better.

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Patients’ families will also benefit from the improved communication resulting from the use of digital hearing aids. According to Borsetto et al. (2021), hearing loss is associated with multiple severe comorbidities — anxiety, depression, isolation, cognitive decline, and dementia. An enhanced ability to communicate with relatives who experience hearing impairment would allow alleviating these comorbidities. As a result, the patient’s family members would feel substantial mood improvement since they would be able to communicate with them more effectively. Due to this positive shift, the sense of isolation from the patient and anxiety for their future in family members would become weaker. In addition, family members would become able to control the treatment process better and intervene with greater effectiveness in case of emergency. Overall, ReSound digital hearing devices would make communication with hearing loss-affected relatives more productive, enjoyable, and less stressful.

Hearing device manufacturers also belong to stakeholder groups of digital technology in hearing care. Most importantly, the advantages and effectiveness of digital hearing devices would lead to an increase in sales compared to traditional aids based on analog technology. Additionally, the manufacturers of digital hearing devices will have an opportunity to create an interoperable and standardized environment in healthcare for the mutual benefit of manufacturers, care providers, and patients. According to Laplante-Lévesque et al. (2016), interoperability and standardization will lower research and development costs for hearing devices. In addition, the manufacturers would empower patients with hearing loss, and the patient’s needs will be better addressed (Laplante-Lévesque et al., 2016). Overall, the positive influence of hearing device manufacturers brings hope for turning the Internet and audiology into the means of individualized care and patient empowerment.

Finally, nurses and other hospital staff will become the last major stakeholder group and one of the most significantly impacted parties at the same time. Digital hearing devices would facilitate cooperation between the nurses and patients with hearing loss, making it more effective and less problematic. As a result, nursing personnel will be able to establish better contact with their patients, ultimately leading to improvements in care quality. Nurses will also have to play a critical role by “championing the awareness of HL among all providers and staff to improve patient-provider communication (Wallhagen & Reed, 2018, p. 14). Additionally, they will have to educate the patients on the use of digital hearing aids. As such, they will be charged with the duties of providing patients, especially older adults, with all necessary information so that they can receive the benefits of modern technology to a full extent. Overall, the nurses will have to master a new model of care, which emphasizes the importance of hearing for the patient’s cognitive health.

Organizational Impacts

Despite all possible benefits from introducing innovative healthcare technology, expecting positive results without proper organizational preparation would be wrong. Administrations of healthcare organizations will have to put effort into nursing personnel education and cooperation with hearing device manufacturers in order to succeed. Otherwise, mass distribution of hearing devices among the patients may become hindered by the lack of technical understanding and ineffective implementation coming from it.

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First, line nursing personnel responsible for patient interaction must understand digital hearing aid technology. According to Wallhagen and Reed (2018), changing policies would require much more effort than developing new policy statements or bills. Healthcare organizations should establish cooperation with hearing device manufacturers in order to provide nursing personnel with adequate knowledge of digital hearing aids. Only if nurses are well-equipped with an understanding of how digital hearing devices work will they give their patients the necessary information. Ideally, hearing care practitioners should be educated in audiology and understand the basics of digital hearing aid programming. Therefore, such departments of the healthcare organization as Informatics and Information Technology would have to organize training sessions for nurses with the support of the device manufacturers.

Additionally, while the role of the nurses is crucial, the healthcare organization’s administration would have to undertake the initiative in promoting the innovations. Nurses should be aware that digital hearing devices are beneficial for them since they assist in improving communication between them and patients with hearing loss. Furthermore, line nursing personnel should realize that digital hearing aids such as ReSound open new possibilities for improving the quality of care. For example, sensors integrated into digital hearing devices with a wireless Internet connection can provide critical data for health applications, such as disease detection and health monitoring (Laplante-Lévesque et al., 2016). Therefore, technological advancements in hearing care can lead to an overall improvement in the treatment of other diseases.

According to Zolnierek and DiMatteo (2009), poor communication impaired by hearing loss might lead to suboptimal adherence to treatment and adverse health outcomes (as cited in Wallhagen & Reed, 2018, p. 14). Nurses should remember that hearing loss directly influences communication between the patient and care provider in the clinical setting. Given this consideration, healthcare organizations should emphasize the awareness promotion about hearing loss and modern, effective solutions to that problem. As such, the introduction of digital hearing devices should address the issues that might arise due to the flaws in communication stemming from hearing impairment.

From the nurse’s perspective, it is important to ensure that patients with hearing loss, especially older adults, are not scared by the perceived complexity of digital hearing aids. This assurance is crucial for the acceptance of technology among patients. Therefore, nurses should alleviate possible hesitations among the patients and convince them that digital hearing aids would positively influence the treatment outcomes. In addition, healthcare organizations should conduct systematic research in order to identify current trends in hearing care and evaluate patients’ needs (Laplante-Lévesque et al., 2016). Overall, modern digital hearing aids such as ReSound can serve as a valuable resource for improving patient-provider communication and the ultimate quality of care. However, equipment manufacturers, healthcare organizations’ administrations, Informatics departments, and nursing personnel must work in a tight connection to implement this innovative technology efficiently.

Conclusion

Digital technology in hearing care, such as ReSound hearing devices, have the potential for successful implementation. The need to address hearing loss is pressing; user-friendly and ergonomic hearing aids with a wireless Internet connection to various digital devices can become a possible solution. Even traditional, analog technology-based hearing aids proved their usefulness in treating conditions associated with hearing loss, such as tinnitus or imbalance. ReSound or similar digital hearing devices can provide additional comfort for patients diagnosed with hearing impairment.

In addition, digital hearing devices might become beneficial for several stakeholder groups. Most importantly, they might facilitate communication between the patients, their families, and care providers. Effective communication between all parties is crucial for positive treatment outcomes, and digital hearing aids can serve as a valuable means for achieving it. Furthermore, digital hearing devices can be integrated with various sensors, which can be used for health condition monitoring and disease detection.

The most significant barrier on the way of digital hearing aids implementation is the perceived complexity of technology for some patients, especially older adults. As such, this technology presents high demands for the quality of collaboration between device manufacturers, healthcare organizations, and line nursing personnel. Furthermore, nurses must possess solid knowledge of technology in order to alleviate possible concerns among the patients. In addition, device manufacturers should cooperate with each other to lower research and development costs and, consequently, the final price of digital hearing devices. However, this cooperation can be inhibited due to commercial competition, leading to possible problems with the affordability of digital hearing aids. Overall, while digital technology in hearing care would likely lead to significant benefits in treatment outcomes, its positive impact can be limited by organizational, marketing, and economic factors.

References

Borsetto, D., Corazzi, V., Franchella, S., Bianchini, C., Pelucchi, S., Obholzer, R., Soulby, A.J., Amin, N., & Ciorba, A. (2021). The influence of hearing aids on balance control: A systematic review. Audiology and Neurotology, 26, pp. 209-217. Web.

Dornhoffer, J. R., Meyer, T. A., Dubno, J. R., & McRackan, T. R. (2020). Assessment of hearing aid benefit using patient-reported outcomes and audiologic measures. Audiology and Neurotology, 25(4), pp. 215-223. Web.

Laplante-Lévesque, A., Abrams, H., Bülow, M., Lunner, T., Nelson, J., Kamaric Riis, S., & Vanpoucke, F. (2016). Hearing device manufacturers call for interoperability and standardization of the Internet and audiology. American Journal of Audiology, 25, pp. 260-263. Web.

Noguchi, M., Suzuki, N., Oishi, N., & Ogawa, K. (2021). Effectiveness of hearing aid treatment in patients with chronic tinnitus: Subscale evaluations using the functional tinnitus index and factor analysis. The Journal of International Advanced Otology, 17(1), pp. 42-45. Web.

Schmucker, C., Kapp, P., Motschall, E., Löhler, J., & Meerpohl, J. J. (2019). Prevalence of hearing loss and use of hearing aids among children and adolescents in Germany: a systematic review. BMC Public Health, 19(1), 1-10. Web.

Wallhagen, M. I., & Reed, N. S. (2018). Implications of hearing care policy for nurses. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 44(9), pp. 9-14. Web.

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