As a consumer, you may not know that there are two different ways to fit and program hearing aids. One is to use the default manufacturer’s setting, also called the first-fit setting. This means the provider essentially takes the hearing aids out of a box and puts them in your ears without performing additional programming or testing to be sure they are working as they should.
The other, and preferred way to fit hearing aids, is using real-ear measurement with verification. This is considered a best practice among industry leaders. Real-ear measurement is a scientific and objective way to find out if your hearing aids are performing the best they can for you.
Size & Shape of Ears Affects Hearing Aid Placement
A real-ear measurement involves placing a thin probe microphone in your outer ear while you wear your hearing aid to measure how it is responding. It takes into account the size and shape of your ear, which can also dramatically affect how your hearing aid needs to be set.
These tests are performed using a probe-microphone and real-ear measurement software, with the results showing graphs of what your hearing aid prescription should be compared to how well your hearing aids are actually performing.
Measurement Allows for Precise Adjustments to Hearing Aids
These results are not estimates or general measurements. They are measurements depicting the real-ear output of the hearing aid for the specific individual. This comparison helps the audiologist make precise adjustments that can have a significant impact on your listening experience, ensuring that your hearing aid is programmed exactly for your hearing loss.
Study Shows Patients Prefer Programmed Hearing Aid Fittings
Now, a new double-blinded study from Washington University in St. Louis indicates that four out of five patients prefer programmed hearing aid fittings that utilize real-ear measurements as opposed to the default settings from the factory. This research was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology.
Better Speech Recognition and Background Noise Improvement
The study showed that 79 percent of the study participants preferred the programmed fittings using real-ear versus the default. The programmed fit provided them with an average of 15 percent better word recognition. The programmed fit also provided a significant improvement in background noise.
Numerous studies have shown that first-fit hearing aids under-amplify high frequencies, negatively affecting speech recognition and patient satisfaction with hearing aids.
Using the manufacturer’s default settings alone without reprogramming the patient’s hearing aids using real-ear measurement is analogous to fitting hearing aids blindly. The audiologist or hearing aid dispenser can never be certain if he/she is appropriately fitting the patient unless they use real-ear measurement.
Only 20-30% of Providers Offer Real-Ear Technology
Bottom line - real-ear testing enables measurement of the sound delivered by a specific hearing aid in the ear canal of a specific individual. It helps fine-tune your hearing aid prescription to your precise needs. Unfortunately, only about 20 to 30 percent of providers in the U.S. take the time and invest in the technology to use real-ear to verify how well the patient’s hearing aids are working.
We Use Real-Ear Probe to Provide the Best Results
At Associated Audiologists we use specialized diagnostic and verification equipment, including real-ear probe microphone, to verify each hearing aid we fit.
Be sure to ask your audiologist to perform real-ear measurements and speech mapping performance when your hearing aids are fit, and when recommended at follow-up appointments. This will ensure you get the most from today’s sophisticated digital technology.
To learn more the Top 10 Advances in Hearing Aid Technology, download our free e-book.