Success with Hearing Aids done with Probe Microphone Testing at Clark Audiology in Middletown and Hamilton Ohio

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For people considering hearing aids or those who have not been successful with hearing aids, Audiologists who use Probe Mic measures achieve greater success for hearing aid wearers. John Greer Clark, Ph.D. of Middletown, Ohio, recommends that all hearing aid fitted be verified with prove microphone measurements.

There are a lot of successful hearing aid users – people who would never go back to hearing like they did before and who frequently wish they had obtained their hearing aids sooner. There are also many people who have expensive hearing aids kept in a dresser drawer.

Hearing care is a process and not a retail event. Unfortunately, often both the person with hearing loss and the hearing care provider diminish the process to the level of a retail transaction. While there are a variety of factors that must be addressed in the hearing care process, perhaps the most important one is verification that audibility of speech has been restored as fully as possible. This verification is most effectively, and most accurately, done through what is known as probe microphone (or real ear) measures.

One might assume that modern hearing aids that are programmed through a computer would restore audibility of speech. After all, the person’s measured hearing thresholds are entered into the computer program’s software when the hearing aid circuit is set, so the circuit should be set optimally, right? Wrong!

The computer sets the circuit with the assumption that the physical dimensions of the individual’s ear are of a computer derived average size. But few ears’ dimensions actually meet these average values. The length and diameter of the ear canal varies from person to person. How deeply the hearing aid speaker is placed in the ear varies from person to person. And the amount of space between the tip of the hearing aid in the ear and the surface of the eardrum varies from person to person. And all of these factors alter how the hearing aid performs in the ear.

The result is that if a hearing aid is programmed by the computer but the settings are not verified for the individual, that person will indeed hear speech more loudly (if loudness was the problem to be corrected). And in a quiet consultation room that person may even hear speech more clearly. But that person will not hear speech adequately in real world listening environments when outside of the consultation room as most often the level of critical sounds – the consonants of speech – have not been restored to audibility as fully as they should be.

The three primary professional audiology associations as well as the consumer advocacy organizations (the Better Hearing Institute and the Hearing Loss Association of America) all say that the accuracy of hearing aid fittings should always be verified through probe-microphone measures. Yet more than 50% of locations fitting hearing aids in the United States do not do these important “best practice” verification on a routine basis and many of them have not even invested in the equipment to make the measures.

Performance with hearing aids require probe microphone verification and should be done routinely by hearing aid providers along with a trial period and the opportunity to try different technology.

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John Greer Clark, Ph.D.

Suzanne Clark, Au.D.
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