Hearing aids do not come out of the box ready for use. Hearing aids need to be programmed and verified for patients to hear their best. Even top-of-the-line hearing aids can be rendered useless if best practice standards are not used.
Real ear measurements provides graphs of sounds levels recorded in the ear to ensure that the hearing aids are set properly for the prescription, and that’s why it’s been the gold standard in our industry for years.
A probe tube attached to a microphone is placed in the ear canal and the output of the hearing aid is measured in decibels for both speech and loud sounds to make sure the levels are meeting prescriptive targets. The tube is placed very near to the eardrum and needs to be inserted carefully by a trained hearing specialist.
However, few clinics perform real ear measurements regularly despite evidence that shows patients are generally more satisfied with their hearing aids when real ear measurement is performed.
Why are only 30-40% of audiologists doing them?
- The training and expertise required. Hearing aids are fit by both audiologists (who have 4 years of graduate work and course in acoustics) and by hearing instrument specialists/audioprosthologists who have no education beyond high school required. Measuring and interpreting these acoustic gain curves requires a good knowledge of acoustics.
- Lack of time. Busy corporate run practices know that time is money and the goal is to see as many patients as quickly as possible. Adding additional time to do tests that are unpaid is not logical to them.
Not legally required. There is no requirement that hearing aids be tested to make sure they are fit properly for a particular hearing loss, they only have to be tested when manufactured that they are operating within the factory specifications.