We’ve come a long way with hearing aid technology, especially in our ability to provide individuals with custom-fit hearing aids that are comfortable, discrete, and perfectly suited to their needs. But getting that perfect fit isn’t always a seamless process, nor are all providers equal when it comes to the task.
There are two key factors involved in a custom hearing aid fitting:
- The fitting should be done by an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist
- The provider should adhere to clinical best practices, as outlined in the American Academy of Audiology guidelines, and patient best practices throughout the fitting process
When these two requirements are met, you can rest assured that you’ll get an optimal fit for your custom hearing aids – and that you won’t have to second guess whether you’re getting the best possible care for treating your hearing loss.
Below, you will learn what to expect during a hearing aid fitting, including the best practices that all qualified providers should follow. Keep these in mind during your fitting process to ensure you’re getting the most out of your custom-fit hearing devices.
What Happens During a Hearing Aid Fitting
Everyone’s ears are unique. In order for hearing aids to function optimally, it’s critical that they be custom-fitted for each individual. This process is done via a hearing aid fitting, a process that is used to determine the exact way your custom hearing aids should be shaped, sized, and fitted, and that assesses just how well they’re meeting your hearing needs.
Prior to your fitting, you’ll work with a hearing care professional to select and order your hearing aids. What hearing aids you choose will be based on things like the extent of your hearing loss, your lifestyle, and your general preferences. A certified professional can walk you through all of your options, as well as whether a custom-fit aid is the right choice for you.
If you do opt for custom-fit hearing aids, your hearing care provider will follow a set hearing aid fitting protocol once your hearing aids are ready for you. There are a few steps to the process, among them a probe mic measure, also known as a real ear measurement, that fine-tunes your hearing aids to meet your very specific hearing prescription.
Here’s what to expect from the entire process, both before and after the mic measure.
Step One: Placement
Your custom hearing aids will be placed in your ears to assess that the fit is comfortable and secure and that they properly seal the ear.
Step Two: Programming
Your hearing aids will then be calibrated to ensure ideal sound amplification and quality. This begins with a listening test during which your hearing aids are connected to an external computer and manually adjusted as needed. Your provider will also do a feedback test to check whether any sound is leaking out of the ear canal, causing your hearing aid to emit a whistling sound. Feedback can happen if your hearing aid isn’t properly sealed and requires a simple physical fit adjustment to fix.
For best results, these tests will be followed by a mic measure, which involves placing a tiny, soft microphone probe into the ear canal while you are wearing your hearing aids. This probe provides an objective measure of sound quality and is particularly useful for assessing sound amplification at different frequencies.
If your hearing needs are a bit more complex (for example, if your hearing loss is more severe in one ear), you may need to come back for additional hearing aid fitting appointments or for targeted tests in different types of environments.
Step Three: Final Consult
Now that your custom hearing aids have been properly placed and programmed, you’ll have an opportunity to discuss any concerns with your hearing care provider, and be given an overview of hearing aid use and care.
Keep in mind that it’s completely normal for hearing aids – even custom-fit ones – to take some getting used to. You’ll have an opportunity to further adjust your hearing aids at your follow-up appointment if necessary.
What Are Hearing Aid Fitting Best Practices?
The precise hearing aid fitting protocol differs from provider to provider. What should always remain the same, however, is a commitment to following the clinical and patient best practices that ensure your experience living with and using hearing aids is a good one.
A top-notch hearing care professional will follow these best practices without question. But if you’re unsure what to look for, these are the guidelines set out by the American Academy of Audiology and upheld by industry certifiers like HearingLoss.com.
Clinical and Patient Best Practices During a Hearing Aid Fitting
Best practices outlined by the American Academy of Audiology cover various parts of the hearing aid fitting process:
Comprehensive assessments – Before ordering your hearing aids, your provider should identify your very specific needs, wants, and expectations. This includes performing a complete auditory evaluation, plus clinical questionnaires such as the National Acoustic Laboratories’ Client Oriented Scale of Improvement (COSI).
Technical evaluation – Your provider should make sure your custom hearing aid not only fits correctly but is comfortable and effective in both noisy environments and quiet ones. Technical programming should be optimized using a prescriptive method like the NAL-NL2 computer program, used to scientifically validate that the hearing aid meets your prescription needs.
Additional testing – Because prescriptive methods can fail to address certain nuances in individual hearing, your provider should also perform other tests, like the mic measure, when programming your hearing aids.
Orientation – It’s not enough to just do a hearing aid fitting and send you out the door. Your provider should counsel you on how to use and maintain your custom hearing aids. They should also thoroughly answer any questions or concerns you have.
Follow-up and validation – You may not get the right fit in one session. A follow-up and validation is necessary for further assessing how your custom-fit aids are working for you, with standardized evaluation methods such as questionnaires being helpful throughout this process. Areas to assess during validation include not just general fit but also how well your hearing aids are doing at improving your hearing challenges and symptoms.
Work with a Provider Dedicated to Best Practices
Hearing aid fitting best practices matter. It’s essential that you work with a hearing care provider who follows the best practices mentioned above for fitting custom-fit aids and who does everything in their power to make sure you have a great experience – and a great outcome.
Our team at Albrecht Audiology adheres to all hearing aid fitting best practices, starting with your assessment and ending with validation of your fit. We will also work closely with you after your final validation appointment to make adjustments if your needs change and always guide all of our patients on proactive measurements for hearing loss prevention that can help protect ears and/or prevent worsening of hearing loss.
If you’re located in or around State College, Pennsylvania, schedule an appointment at our office to begin the process of getting fitted for a custom hearing aid. Otherwise, start your journey at HearingLoss.com with a free online Guided Hearing Experience and an easy-to-search network of certified local hearing care professionals equally committed to fitting best practices.