By Sveinar Y. Larsen, M.A., CCC-A
How do I know if my hearing aid has been adjusted correctly?
Hearing aids have a great deal of flexibility in how they can be adjusted. Most hearing aids have adjustments for soft, medium and loud sounds, from low to high pitched. They also have adjustments for how they handle sounds like wind noise, machine noise or background conversational noises.
With all these adjustments, how do you know if a hearing aid is adjusted correctly for your hearing loss? The best tool for determining this is commonly referred to as “real ear testing.” It gets its name from the ability to use the patient’s own ear to measure how well the hearing aid is performing.
Real ear testing equipment uses microphones that are connected to small tubes placed in the ear canal. The hearing aid is then placed in the ear on top of the small tube, allowing the microphone to measure the amount of amplification the hearing aid is providing at each pitch. The equipment can measure how well the hearing aid is amplifying soft, medium or loud noises, and anything in between. The equipment uses the patient’s hearing test to create sound level targets for the hearing aid to reach. These targets help get the hearing aid adjusted to levels that enable the patient to hear and understand speech.
Are all hearing aids fit using real ear systems? Sadly, no. In fact, some surveys suggest less than half of hearing aids fit use real ear at the initial fitting. The reasons for not using real ear vary from the cost of the real ear equipment to the time involved in doing the test.
Instead of doing real ear testing, hearing aid dispensers use the hearing aid manufacturer’s software to adjust the hearing aid to levels appropriate for the hearing loss. However, these adjustments are based on things like an average ear canal size and often do not give the user enough sound amplification for the hearing loss. Real ear systems take all the specifics of the user of the device into account for adjustments, allowing for more accurate adjustments for the individual.
Research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology also supports the use of real ear testing in hearing aid fittings. Studies found that patients had better word recognition and preferred the sound of hearing aids programmed using real ear technology compared to using the manufacturer’s recommended levels. The researchers concluded that all hearing aids should be programmed using real ear technology.
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At St. Cloud ENT clinic, we agree and verify all our hearing aid fittings using real ear measurements. We also use this technology on future follow-up visits to ensure the hearing aids stay in adjustment or, if there is a change in hearing, to readjust to the new hearing loss levels. It’s a part of our commitment to make sure we provide the very best hearing health care to patients with hearing loss.
If you would like to learn more about our real ear technology or would like us to evaluate your hearing loss, contact us at (320) 252-0233 or (800) 450-3223.
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