The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
MNA conducted the statistical analyses and drafted the manuscript together with MPO. MPO was project supervisor. Both authors contributed to the design and conception of this work. Both the authors have read and approved the final version of the manuscript.
This paper describes the analysis of a database of over 180,000 patient records, collected from over 23,000 patients, by the hearing aid clinic at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, UK. These records consist of audiograms (graphs of the faintest sounds audible to the patient at six different pitches), categorical data (such as age, gender, diagnosis and hearing aid type) and brief free text notes made by the technicians. This data is mined to determine which factors contribute to the decision to fit a BTE (worn behind the ear) hearing aid as opposed to an ITE (worn in the ear) hearing aid.
From PCA (principal component analysis) four main audiogram types are determined, and are related to the type of hearing aid chosen. The effects of age, gender, diagnosis, masker, mould and individual audiogram frequencies are combined into a single model by means of logistic regression. Some significant keywords are also discovered in the free text fields by using the chi-squared (χ2) test, which can also be used in the model. The final model can act a decision support tool to help decide whether an individual patient should be offered a BTE or an ITE hearing aid.
The final model was tested using 5-fold cross validation, and was able to replicate the decisions of audiologists whether to fit an ITE or a BTE hearing aid with precision in the range 0.79 to 0.87.
A decision support system was produced to predict the type of hearing aid which should be prescribed, with an explanation facility explaining how that decision was arrived at. This system should prove useful in providing a "second opinion" for audiologists.