At Auditory Services, hearing aid fitting refers to everything which takes place on the day you receive your hearing aids. This includes not only the technical procedures used to obtain the most appropriate and beneficial settings for your hearing aids, but also the personal aspects of properly introducing you to amplification, and insuring that you are well on your way to achieving successful usage, care and management.
Real-ear measurement involves placing a probe-tube microphone in the ear canal with the hearing aids in place, and measuring the response of the hearing aid in the presence of a stimulus. In this way, the characteristics of the ear canal and its effect on the response of the hearing aid are taken into account and seen right on the screen. It is the response of the hearing aid in your real ear. Without these probe-tube measurements, the settings of the hearing aid are really only an approximation. Measuring the effect of the hearing aid in your ear is useful for achieving the greatest fitting accuracy and for verifying that the hearing aid is performing properly.
Did it surprise you to learn that these sorts of measurements have been available for decades? They have, and Auditory Services has been at the forefront of using this important technology. When we began doing real-ear measurements in the early 1990’s the sounds used to evaluate the hearing aid settings were mostly tonal, or a composite or grouping of several tones at the same time. This worked very well at the time and hearing aid fitting became much more accurate as a result.
Currently real-ear measurements also allow for the use of speech as a stimulus.
Real-ear measurement using speech as a stimulus is sometimes referred to as “speech-mapping”. We use state-of-the-art “Verifit” audiological equipment for doing real-ear measurements with speech mapping. Use of the speech stimulus makes real-ear measurement even more meaningful as a form of verifying benefit and as a counseling tool. The response of the hearing aid is displayed in real time with graphs showing where speech occurs in normal conversation. We can then demonstrate how the hearing aid manipulates the stimulus to optimize the patient’s access to the sounds of speech. This process may easily be described to the patient, who can both hear the response of the hearing aid in their ear, and see its effect on the screen. This can be a very enlightening moment for the patient, creating a greater sense of understanding and involvement in the process.
After real-ear measurements and programming are successfully completed, we have a comprehensive orientation with the patient and any family members who have come along.
Speech-mapping and hearing aid technology don’t amount to much if the patient is unable to manage and use their hearing aids on a day-to-day basis.
Therefore, the second half of the hearing aid fitting is a personal, hands-on introduction to the hearing aids and their use. We carefully review the features and controls of the hearing aids. Batteries and battery usage are discussed. Patients are taught and must demonstrate the ability to change batteries, and perform the basic techniques of cleaning and maintaining the hearing aids. Proper storage of the hearing aids is reviewed. None of this is very difficult, but because the experience is new to many patients, all of this is reviewed and practiced carefully.
Insertion (and removal) of the hearing aids is taught and practiced. Most patients find hearing aid insertion quite natural while others require a bit more time and instruction. The presence of family and friends at the hearing aid fitting is very helpful. Once exposed to the process, they can become coaches at home as the patient seeks to transfer these new skills to daily life. Almost everyone is able to insert and remove hearing aids easily over time.
Don’t underestimate the importance of good advice!
You might be surprised how much time we spend just talking to our patients at Auditory Services. At the conclusion to the hearing aid fitting, we discuss the elements of successful adjustment to hearing aid use. We talk about your hopes and expectations for life with hearing aids, and we stress the importance of patience and flexibility. Your questions and concerns are heard, and useful, meaningful responses are provided. This process of guidance and counseling does not end with the hearing aid fitting. We know most of our patients for many years, and we continue to guide you as your needs and the technology change over time. Most of today’s hearing aids are very friendly and easy to use, but as with anything new, the more you know the better you will do; and the greater will be your benefit.
You can see that the term “hearing aid fitting” encompasses quite a bit at Auditory Services. We do all of this and more with every fitting because this careful attention to detail increases the likelihood of every patient’s success. As long as you are making the effort to improve your hearing, make sure you get started the right way, here at Auditory Services.