No two hearing aids are alike because each user has varying degrees of hearing damage. This is where programming comes in for a custom fit. How your hearing aid is programmed depends on how bad your hearing is as well as your comfort level. You can’t simply purchase a set of hearing aids off the rack without having them programmed. A hearing aid won’t do you any good without programming by a certified audiologist, in a similar way to glasses without the lenses.
Today, hundreds of elements can be fine tuned within digital hearing aids to match the hearing needs of someone with hearing loss. Programming can occur during and after a thorough hearing evaluation with the user on his or her subjective preferences. In addition, once a hearing aid is programmed, it can be adjusted again in the future. Most hearing aids manufactured today are digital, and easy to program with software. In contrast, older devices could be adjusted with a simple screwdriver. There weren’t too many adjustments available — you got what you got. In fact, many people return with suggestions on how the device could work better. They may have complaints about what the device can’t do for them, too. Why? It takes time for the brain to adjust to the new sounds emitted by the device. This can only be determined over time; then the audiologist can fine tune the device based on those suggestions.
What Factors can be Adjusted?
One factor is the filtration of background noise, but there are many other elements involved when programming a hearing aid. An audiologist can adjust things like volume, frequency, intensity levels, compression ratios, max power output, noise reduction, and microphone parameters. This all depends on the model you have. For instance, if one setting is too sensitive when it comes to noise, it can be tweaked to accommodate the user’s level of comfort.
Programming Hearing Aids
One thing doctors use is a surround sound system to simulate real noise from the outside world and make adjustments depending on real-time feedback. This surround sound system approach can simulate crowd noises and help the doctor adjust noise reduction factors. This is a big help, because so many people with hearing aids say they work great when all is quiet but as soon as they hit a crowd, they have to compete with all the background noise. A hearing aid can be customized to the individual user via real ear measurements, visual mapping and environmental simulations. Real-ear probe microphones help detect how much sound is getting to the eardrum so the doctor can accurately program the device as best as possible. Visible speech mapping (VSM) informs the doctor how various sounds of speech hit the eardrum and process sound. This is an ideal alternative to traditional measurements, as today’s hearing aids can now help with noise reduction and feedback reduction algorithms. The proper hardware, software and cables to connect to the hearing aid are all needed to begin process of programming a hearing aid. Many people can program their own hearing aids; however, the equipment is expensive and the level of accuracy is not as high.