Ask the Audiologist: What Happens During a Hearing Aid Fitting?
In our last post, we talked about the critical importance of hearing aid fittings. But you may be wondering exactly what happens during a fitting. In this following-up post, I’ll walk you through a typical hearing aid fitting process.
Hearing aid consultation
Before hearing aids can be fitted, the right ones need to be selected. This takes place during a consultation with the hearing care professional (HCP) after all the diagnostic hearing tests have been completed. During this time, the HCP will review the results of your hearing tests with you and explain how those results determine the kind of hearing aid you may need. For example, more severe hearing loss usually requires a more powerful, and therefore bigger, hearing aid.
The HCP will also ask you questions about your lifestyle, daily activities, the kind of listening situations most important to you, and your expectations and wishes for what you want the from your hearing aids. For example, if you lead an active lifestyle and attend a variety of social events, you may require more versatile hearing aids that can meet your listening demands in a variety of noisy or challenging acoustic situations. Whereas if you spend most of your time at home and in quiet situations, perhaps less advanced technology will suffice.
With all factors discussed, your HCP will make recommendations for the best hearing aid candidates for your needs, and you will choose the ones you want. Depending on the hearing aids chosen, you have may have to wait for another appointment before you can be fit. For example, if you chose customized hearing aids that need to fit the contours of your ears, these require time to be custom-made by the manufacturer and delivered to your HCP. Otherwise, you might be fit with your chosen hearing aids immediately.
The hearing aid first fit process
To begin, the HCP will make sure that the hearing aids fit comfortably on or in your ears. Then, while you’re wearing the hearing aids, the HCP will program the hearing aids to preliminary settings according to your hearing loss via computer software. This process only takes a few minutes and you might hear some calibration beeps and noises. Once complete, the HCP will turn the hearing aids on—this will be the first time you hear through them!
Sometimes this initial setting may already be completely satisfactory, but typically some fine-tuning adjustments need to be made to the settings according to your feedback. These may include adjusting the sounds of your voice, or if certain things sound too loud or soft, too shrill, or noisy, etc.
To double-check that the amplification provided by the hearing aids is appropriate for your hearing loss, some HCPs may play some special pre-recorded sounds and noises, and measure the hearing aid output in your ear. All you must do is sit quietly for this part of the evaluation.
Once you are happy with the sound of the new hearing aids with this “first fit,” the HCP will also teach you how to use, care for, and clean your hearing aids. Finally, you will be sent home to try the new hearing aids out for a few weeks until the follow-up fitting. This first fit session typically takes about an hour.
Follow-up hearing aid fittings
Follow-up fittings are important and necessary. After all, you don’t live in the HCP’s office, so even when everything sounds great during the first fitting, things might sound different once you go about your daily life and experience how your world sounds with your new hearing aids. Maybe everything sounds great at home, but restaurants are too loud. Or, everything might sound great at work, except the clacking of keyboards. These problems surface once you’ve worn the new hearing aids for some time, and follow-up fittings are necessary to properly address them.
These short appointments are typically scheduled for about two weeks after the first fit. To resolve the different issues, the HCP may make additional programming adjustments, modify the physical fit of the aids, or review care and usage topics. You may also have your hearing checked again in the sound booth, but this time with your hearing aids on. The results of this “aided testing” can be compared against your performance during your initial hearing evaluation. Then, you’ll also be able to see on paper how your hearing has improved with hearing aids.
Most patients are fully satisfied with their hearing aids after two or three follow-up fittings. If after multiple fittings you’re dissatisfied, or for whatever reason you’re still not happy with your hearing aids, the return policy ensures that within a certain period, you can return them to the hearing care professional or try different hearing aids.
As you can see, a hearing aid fitting is a process that the HCP and the patient go through together over time. There are no quick fixes or shortcuts for achieving long-term satisfaction with your hearing aids. Beyond the technology, it is also the expertise and professionalism of the HCP that ensure you can fully enjoy the world of sound again. To find a hearing care professional in your area, check out our hearing care professional locator tool.