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What we are doing

About CHerUB's research

 

Project Background

Hearing aids are an important part of the support deaf babies (with any level of hearing loss) receive because they help babies access speech sounds, which are critical for spoken language development and to develop the auditory parts of the brain. By getting hearing aids from an early age and importantly using them consistently every day when they are awake, babies are more likely to have better language outcomes.


However, recent research by CHerUB team members Dr Anisa Visram and Professor Kevin Munro has shown that babies are not wearing their hearing aids as often as they need to for optimal benefits, and that achieving consistent hearing aid use can be a challenge for families.

As a result of this work, we were awarded funding from the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) to develop a programme of support for families of babies under 2 years of age to help overcome the challenges of incorporating regular hearing aid use into daily life and ultimately achieve consistent hearing aid use from the very start.

We are doing this in 3 phases:

 

Phase 1: Understanding the challenges

This is our current focus

To help us develop a programme of support for families, we first need to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges or ‘barriers’ to regular hearing aid use that families face, how these barriers might influence one another and change over time, and the situations or circumstances they tend to happen in.


We are doing this in 3 steps:

  1. A review of all the existing evidence to find the barriers to consistent hearing aid use (and any factors that help families achieve regular hearing aid use) reported by parents and professionals working with families.

  2. Interviews with parents, teachers of the deaf, and audiologists for their experiences and perspectives on what the barriers might be to get a richer understanding.

  3. A UK-wide survey of known barriers, which we will circulate to families to help quantify the challenges (e.g., which are most common, how they change as children grow older, whether there are groups more at risk).

The science behind why achieving consistent hearing aid use is no easy task

For many parents, managing hearing aid use with their baby is something that is new to their likely already hectic routine, and means having to change or adapt what they do day-to-day to achieve consistent hearing aid use. In other words, it means forming new habits. For us to be able to adopt good habits and put plans into action we need 3 things:

  • Capability – whether we have the knowledge and/or skills needed to carry out the actions

  • Opportunity – whether our social, interpersonal, and/or physical environment makes it possible to carry out the actions 

  • Motivation – whether we have the motivation to carry out the actions. Is it worth the effort?


However, having the capability, opportunity, and/or motivation is not always easy as things can get in the way. For example, low confidence in troubleshooting hearing aids might impact a person’s capability, creating a potential barrier to hearing aid use. What can make things more difficult is that some of the barriers to hearing aid use can change over time and can depend on the situation and context parents find themselves in. For example, a day of temper tantrums might lead to little or no hearing aid use that day. With this in mind, it is important we develop a better understanding of the barriers parents face, how they influence one another and change over time, and the situations or circumstances they tend to happen in. Equipped with this information, we can map practical solutions to these barriers in phase 2 of the project.

 

Phase 2: Developing a programme of support

Based on findings from the research in phase 1, we will build on work already being done with families across the UK and create a programme of support working closely with parents, audiologists, and teachers of the deaf. We will also develop the programme of support within the scientific theory known as ‘behaviour change theory’, which is about understanding the things that influence what we do (our behaviours), and supporting people to adapt their behaviours (putting plans into action and developing good habits) to meet goals; in this case, the goal of consistent hearing aid use. This approach has already been successful in supporting adult hearing aid use, as well as other health behaviours like helping people stop smoking and reducing alcohol a consumption.

 

Phase 3: Assessing the programme of support

For the final phase of the CHerUB project, we will invite families to try using the programme of support to help us find out if it successful in supporting families, and how families feel about it (e.g., what they liked, what could be improved etc.).