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Open Access Study protocol

Working memory training for adult hearing aid users: study protocol for a double-blind randomized active controlled trial

Helen Henshaw1* and Melanie A Ferguson2

Author Affiliations

1 NIHR Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Ropewalk House, 113 The Ropewalk, Nottingham, UK

2 NIHR Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Ropewalk House, 113 The Ropewalk, Nottingham, UK

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Trials 2013, 14:417  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-14-417

Published: 5 December 2013

Abstract

Background

One in ten people aged between 55 to 74 years have a significant hearing impairment in their better hearing ear (as defined by audiometric hearing thresholds). However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the challenges faced by older listeners cannot be explained by the audiogram alone. The ability for people with hearing loss to use cognition to support speech perception allows for compensation of the degraded auditory input. This in turn offers promise for new cognitive-based rehabilitative interventions. Working memory is known to be highly associated with language comprehension and recent evidence has shown significant generalization of learning from trained working memory tasks to improvements in sentence-repetition skills of children with severe to profound hearing loss. This evidence offers support for further investigation into the potential benefits of working memory training to improve speech perception abilities in other hearing impaired populations.

Methods/Design

This is a double-blind randomized active controlled trial aiming to assess whether a program of working memory training results in improvements in untrained measures of cognition, speech perception and self-reported hearing abilities in adult hearing aid users (aged 50 to 74 years) with mild-to-moderate hearing loss, compared with an active control group who receive a placebo version of the working memory training program.

Discussion

The present study aims to generate high-quality preliminary evidence for the efficacy of working memory training for adults with mild-to-moderate sensorineural hearing loss who are existing hearing aid users. This trial addresses a number of gaps in the published literature assessing training interventions for people with hearing loss, and in the general literature surrounding working memory training, such as the inclusion of an active control group, participant and tester blinding, and increased transparency in reporting.

Trial registration

ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT01892007. Date of registration: 27 June 2013.

Keywords:
Hearing loss; Hearing aid; Speech intelligibility; Speech perception; Cognition; Cognitive training; Working memory; Working memory training