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British Society of Audiology – Lunch and Learn eSeminars

By Alex P Stagg, on 19 September 2012

The British Society of Audiology are launching a new series of on-line presentations.

Called ‘Lunch & Learn‘, the eSeminars will be available free of charge and are provided in collaboration with Phonak iLearn. The link will be provided on Monday 1st October on the BSA and Phonak websites.

The Topic of the first seminar is: ‘Snake oil science: using ‘mild deception’ to demonstrate the influence of placebo and patient expectation on hearing aid benefit’. The Seminar will be presented by Prof. Kevin J Munro of the The University of Manchester.


Placebo effects— clinical responses associated with the expectations surrounding treatments rather than with any intrinsic property of the treatment—are wide-ranging and are recognized in medical research and clinical practice. Because of their importance, we examined placebo effects in a hearing aid trial using benefit measures typical of those used in clinical trials: speech in noise tests, sound quality ratings and overall personal preference. Our approach was to compare two hearing aids that were acoustically identical.  However, we used mild deception and informed the participants that they were comparing a conventional hearing aid with a new hearing aid.  On all of our measures, greater benefit was obtained with the ‘new’ hearing aid. Given the potential far reaching impact of these findings, we decided to repeat the study.  Once again, greater benefit was obtained with the ‘new’ hearing aid. These findings have important implications for hearing aid researchers. They suggest a need for caution when interpreting hearing aid trials which do not control for placebo effects. This is highly relevant to the UK National Health Service which currently spends around £60m/yr purchasing hearing aids. Our findings also have important implications for audiologists and hearing aid dispensers. It is likely that hearing aid users with positive expectations are more likely to experience benefit; therefore, the manipulation of expectations potentially offers an additional tool to maximize real benefit for audiology patients.



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