Has your hearing healthcare provider recommended hearing aids as a part of the treatment plan for your hearing loss? The next step in the process is to determine which hearing aids will work best for you, and to have them professionally fit. This is known as a hearing aid fitting. If this is your first hearing aid you may not know what to expect from this fitting appointment.
What to expect from the fitting process
It is normal to have a mix of emotions ranging from anxiety to excitement at the prospect of improved hearing.The focus at the fitting appointment is to ensure:
Your hearing healthcare provider is an expert at how to fit a hearing aid and will work with you to strike a balance between imparting important information regarding the use and care of your hearing aids and not overwhelming you.
Bring a loved one, if you can
It is often helpful to have a family member or friend with you at your hearing aid fitting appointment to help remember the information presented and provide support. It is also good to have a familiar voice to listen to when you first have the hearing aids fit. Don't worry though – your hearing healthcare provider will be happy to review any information and answer any questions at this hearing aid orientation or follow-up appointments.
How to fit a hearing aid: Getting the sound right
Your hearing aids are sophisticated computers. They need to be programmed to the prescription targets that are based upon your hearing loss. Your hearing healthcare provider will connect the hearing aids to a computer and use specialized software to make changes and calibrations to the hearing aids. They will verify that the hearing aids are set appropriately using a real-ear system—this will involve either measuring the sound from the hearing aids while they are in your ears, or by simulating the response in a test box. Then they may fine-tune the sound you hear based on your initial reactions.
It takes time to acclimate to hearing aids
It takes a while to get used to hearing better. You will notice that your own voice sounds a little different. Other people's voices should sound clearer. You will notice all the little sounds that surround us every day that you may have forgotten about—a ticking clock, a blowing fan and the birds chirping outside, for example. With regular use of your hearing aids, these sounds will once again seem normal.
You can request custom hearing aid settings
However, it is important to communicate any concerns you have with your hearing healthcare provider. There are many settings within the hearing aid that can be adjusted to improve your listening experiences. Everyone's experience of their hearing is unique to them. One of the more common requests is to add a setting for listening to music or to mask tinnitus.
While it is important to understand that hearing aids cannot heal your damaged hearing—and therefore cannot provide perfect hearing—they are amazing and flexible devices. Your hearing healthcare provider can work with you to ensure you have the best outcome with them and can again enjoy the sounds and conversations around you.
Hearing aid care and use
In addition to checking that the hearing aids fit well in your ears and that the sound is beneficial to you, you will receive education on how the hearing aids work and how to care for them. Typical information covered includes:
Follow-up visits and hearing aid adjustments
The hearing aid fitting appointment shouldn't be your last visit with your hearing healthcare provider. The sounds you hear in the office is not the best test of how you benefit from the hearing aids. The situations and people you had difficulty hearing before you had them fit are the true test. Most providers will want to see you a few weeks after you have had your hearing aids fitted to discuss your experiences with the aids outside the clinic. Have they addressed your hearing needs? Were they comfortably worn for longer periods of time? Remember, there are many adjustments that can be made to the hearing aids and the sound you get from them. There are also assistive listening devices or accessories that can be used with the hearing aids.
Your hearing healthcare provider can provide counselling on all aspects of your hearing, your hearing aids, and most importantly any communication challenges you or your loved ones may be having due to your hearing loss. You should also have your hearing loss monitored, so annual testing is recommended. Your hearing aids will need adjustments if your hearing loss changes over time or as you get used to hearing from the hearing aids and find you need them fine-tuned further.
Your hearing care professional will take the time to understand your specific needs and customize a plan that will get you the best results. Talk to a local hearing instrument specialist or audiologist near you who will guide you through the process.