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Objective: The present study aimed to investigate the effects of assistive listening device (ALD) use on communication efficiency in groups of elderly adults with and without hearing impairment during a structured language sampling task. The relationship between self-perceived hearing handicap and communication efficiency was also explored. Method: Twenty-two subjects completed measures of hearing sensitivity, perceived hearing handicap, cognition, and a language sample. One half of the hearing-impaired participants and one half of the normal-hearing group were randomly assigned to use an ALD during a structured conversation task with a naïve partner. Results: The Hearing Loss/No ALD group had significantly more breakdowns than the Hearing Loss/With ALD group. Further, the Hearing Loss/With ALD group performed statistically similar to the two groups without hearing loss. For the normal-hearing groups as well as the Hearing Loss/No ALD group, self-perceived hearing handicap was significantly correlated with the number of communication breakdowns. Conclusion: The results lent preliminary support for the use of ALDs in the management of hearing loss. A case for functional assessment of communication was made to better illuminate causes of perceived communication handicap in the aural rehabilitation of elderly persons with hearing impairment.
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