How Hearing Aids Are Programmed

Atlanta Hearing Associates' Blog.

Don’t assume you can simply get fitted for a hearing aid without going through the programming part. This part is actually crucial to the proper operation of your device. Your device will need programming by a certified audiologist skilled in this field. This is important because your hearing aid needs to conform to your ears and your existing hearing capabilities, which is why no two hearing aids are the same because everyone has different requirements. How your hearing aid is programmed depends on your degree of hearing loss, comfort level and other personal considerations.

What Factors Can Be Adjusted?

Many factors come into play when programming a hearing aid. Depending on the model type you have, along with the software contained in it, an audiologist can adjust elements such as volume, frequency, intensity levels, compression ratios, max power output, noise reduction, microphone parameters and the like. If one setting is too sensitive in regards to noise, it can be changed to accommodate the user’s comfort level. Many can be adjusted to filter out certain levels of background noise as well.

Processing Time

Most hearing aids manufactured today are digital in nature. Older devices used to be adjusted with a simple screwdriver. You got what you got – there weren’t too many adjustments available. Now, hundreds of elements can be fine tuned within digital hearing aids to accommodate the hearing needs of someone with hearing loss. Programming takes place as a result of a complete hearing evaluation with the user on his or her subjective preferences. Also, once a hearing aid is programmed, this doesn’t mean it can’t be adjusted again in the future. In fact, most people come back to their doctor with suggestions on how the device could work better or complaints about what the device can’t do for them. This is because the brain has to take time to adjust to the new sounds emitted by the device, which can only be determined over time in various listening situations. The audiologist can then fine tune the device based on those recommendations. This trouble shooting approach is what’s so great about digital hearing aids.

Programming Hearing Aids

During the actual programming process, many doctors use a surround sound system to simulate real noise from the outside world and make adjustments based on real-time feedback. Through the innovative use of real ear measurements, visual mapping and environmental simulations, a hearing aid can be customized to the individual user. Real-ear probe microphones can detect how much sound is reaching the eardrum so the doctor can be the most accurate in his programming. Visible speech mapping (VSM) tells the doctor how various sounds of speech hit the eardrum. This is a great alternative to traditional measurements because today’s hearing aids can now help with noise reduction and feedback reduction algorithms. This surround sound system can simulate crowd noises to determine how they will go about noise reduction. This is a helpful feature because so many people with hearing aids say they work great when all is quiet but as soon as they are in a restaurant, or even at a train station, they have to work hard to compete with all that background noise. You need the right hardware, software and cables to connect to the hearing aid. Some hearing impaired individuals can program their own hearing aids but the equipment can get expensive and the level of accuracy is reduced. You should always have a qualified audiologist perform this important task.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.