Let’s face it: most people would rather not wear hearing aids and, as a result, put off the entire process for years. They worry about the price, they think hearing aids are for “old” people, and they have heard stories from other people about hearing aids that didn’t work, sat in a drawer, or didn’t help.

As an audiologist, I have been helping people hear better since 1998. I’ve seen many different generations of hearing aid technology and can tell you one thing for certain: It’s not the hearing aids – it’s about the person fitting them – that determines best outcomes. The best technology will not perform well if it isn’t fit properly.

This brings us to the concept of “best practices”. Best practice is using care concepts, interventions, and techniques that are grounded in research and known to promote higher quality of care. For better hearing, best practice should include:

  • a comprehensive hearing evaluation
  • speech in noise testing
  • a needs assessment
  • real ear verification of the hearing aid fitting, and
  • outcome measures

Comprehensive Hearing Evaluation

A comprehensive hearing evaluation diagnoses the type, configuration, and severity of the hearing loss. It is also necessary to rule out any medical issues that need to be treated, such as middle ear fluid, infection, vertigo, or neurologic conditions.

Speech in Noise Testing

Speech in noise testing is exactly what it sounds like. This testing evaluates how well you hear in the presence of background noise and the results are important in determining what types of features you need to hear well in less than ideal environments.

Needs Assessment

A needs assessment can be as simple as a probing conversation or a standardized form. The goal is to identify the areas in which you are having difficulty communicating. It may be at home, in restaurants, during a weekly card game, hearing the television, using the phone, or playing a sport.  Once these areas are identified, strategies can be implemented to achieve better hearing. This may mean the use of assistive listening devices, such as a remote microphone or FM system, or specific programs that can be accessed in the hearing aids to provide more individualized sound processing. The assessment may uncover a need for specific training, also called aural rehabilitation, to teach and practice listening skills. A needs assessment should take safety into account. When the hearing aids are taken off at night, will you be able to hear the fire alarm? Can you hear the phone ring? Someone knocking on the door? Your child or grandchild crying? Audiologists provide solutions to these issues as well.

Probe Microphone Measurements

Fitting hearing aids is more complicated than pressing a few keys on the computer. There needs to be objective verification that the hearing aids are doing what they are supposed to be doing in your ear. This is where real ear measurement comes in. A tiny probe microphone is placed in the ear and the audiologist is able to verify the hearing aid is delivering the right amount of amplification at the level of the eardrum for soft, medium, and loud sounds. It also can be used to verify specific features are functioning properly and make sure the hearing aids are not allowing sounds to get painfully loud.

Outcome Measures

Finally, there needs to be a way to document the outcome of hearing aid use. Do the hearing aids result in better hearing? In which situations? Are there still areas for improvement? If there are unmet needs they have to be addressed.

Better hearing impacts not only the person with hearing loss, but every person they come into contact with. Finding an audiologist who utilizes these practices is the best way to successfully obtain better hearing.

These practices are standard in our facility; if you or someone you know is unhappy with their hearing please call our office for a consult.

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