Real Ear Measurement: What Is It? What You Need To Know.

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Why do individuals purchase state-of-the-art hearing aid technology, only to end up not wearing their new hearing aids and leaving them in the nightstand drawer?

It may be because the hearing aids weren’t correctly fit and programmed for the individual. Hearing aids come preset to the manufacturer’s specifications. Some audiologists simply take the hearing aids out of the box, put them in the patient’s ears and send them on their way.

That shouldn’t happen. Those patients didn’t get the benefit of a real-ear probe microphone measurement. In fact, Consumer Reports indicates that, based on real-ear probe-microphone measures, two-thirds of patients fit with hearing aids in the U.S. may have improperly fitting hearing aids.

The manufacturer’s specifications don’t take the individual’s unique needs into account. They utilize general settings that don’t work for everyone. This can result in hearing aids that under- or overamplify sound, leading the patient to believe that hearing aids don’t work for them.

Fortunately, there is a scientific and objective way to find out if your hearing aids are working at peak performance. Special diagnostic and verification equipment, including real-ear probe microphone and speech mapping measures, should be used to verify how well you’re hearing with your hearing aids in your ears. This technology is considered a best practice among industry leaders.

A real-ear test, also called a real-ear measure, involves placing a thin probe microphone in the outer ear while you wear your hearing aid to measure whether it is responding appropriately to your level of hearing loss. Your audiologist also should test understanding of speech in both quiet and noisy areas, too.

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 and how well your hearing aids are actually performing.

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.

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 the audiologist fine-tune the hearing aid prescription to your precise needs. Unfortunately, only about 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. 

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.

What else should you do to be sure your hearing aids are operating at peak performance? Try these tips. They can help you get the most from your hearing aid technology, no matter what your hearing loss or the type and style of hearing aids you wear.

  1. Schedule regular hearing aid check-ups, usually every six to eight months and have your hearing aids cleaned and checked. You should also update your hearing test every 18 to 36 months. 
  2. Check for changes. If your hearing has changed, your hearing needs have changed, or if your technology is five years old or older, you may want to look into new hearing aid technology. Just like any digital device, new technology is constantly being introduced. What was state-of-the-art five years ago is now entry-level technology. New, more sophisticated hearing devices include directional microphones, rechargeable power options, Bluetooth connectivity and apps that can help you control your hearing aids from your cell phone. These new hearing aids come in a wide range of styles to meet every need and budget. 
  3. If you notice a sudden change in your hearing, call immediately. An audiologist should evaluate the problem and refer you to the appropriate specialist as soon as possible. At Associated Audiologists, we have a vast network of referring physicians and are on staff at several of the area’s top-rated hospitals so that we can provide you with access to the best care available. 
  4. No matter how sophisticated or expensive the technology, be sure to ask if the audiologist you are seeing utilizes real-ear verification. Verification is essential for every hearing aid user and helps you get the most from your investment in hearing aids.

Ninety-eight percent of patients surveyed said they would strongly recommend Associated Audiologists to a friend or relative with a hearing need, and 93 percent are satisfied with their hearing aids.

When was the last time you had your hearing aids verified?  Schedule an appointment with a doctoral-level audiologist today.