The goal of hearing aid fittings is to ensure you can hear more clearly. Since everyone’s ears are different, the acoustic demands of each person vary from individual to individual. In fact, the same person can have two very differently shaped ear canals.
In addition, your ears also hear differently! The right ear is typically better at deciphering speech sounds, while the left ear is more sensitive to sounds of music and singing. So how do we make sure that hearing aids can perfectly cater to a person’s acoustic needs? The answer—real ear measurements (REM).
What Are Real Ear Measurements?
Just as calibrated audiometers help measure hearing loss, real ear measurement helps prescribe the right volume for your hearing aids. Real ear measurements consider your specific ear canal acoustics when fitting hearing aids—including ear canal size, length, shape, and your auditory needs.
Since each person has specific ear acoustics, the actual sound produced by the hearing aids will differ from what is predicted based on the average ear. And according to research, 80% of older adults don’t wear their hearing aids because they felt uncomfortable and didn’t work well.
Real ear measurements solve this problem since they can determine a person’s exact level of amplification at every frequency. They’re an important part of the hearing aid fitting process and help to maximize your results.
What Is the Procedure for Real Ear Measurements?
- During real ear measurements, the hearing care specialist will insert a thin probe microphone into the ear canal. This allows the hearing care specialist to measure the exact sound levels the user is receiving from different sounds.
- The end of the probe is intended to rest between the eardrum and the tip of your hearing aid. The opposite end will be attached to the equipment.
- The hearing aid will be placed into the ear, after which speech sounds will be produced by the REM equipment. You will be asked to stay still and silent during this process.
- The sound from the probe microphone will be sent to the equipment.
- The display on the equipment will then indicate whether the targeted volume is reached across a frequency spectrum, including low, middle, and high pitches.
- If the prescribed volume is not reached, the hearing care specialist will adjust the hearing aid accordingly to reach the user’s personalized target amplification levels.
The REM is measured with various speech sounds and frequencies. Since the microphone is only a few millimeters from the eardrum, the hearing care specialist can easily measure the exact sound levels from the hearing aids. This process helps ensure that the user is receiving the correct level of amplification for their hearing needs.
The Benefits of Real Ear Measurements (REM)
Here’s why real ear measurements are so important in hearing aid fittings:
1. Precise Sound Level
Without the data from a real ear measurement, it is only assumed that a hearing aid is working correctly for you. Hearing aid manufacturers cannot accommodate your unique ear canal acoustics when creating the hearing aid software, which is why real ear measurements are necessary.
Real ear measurements help ensure that the user is getting the right amplification levels, so the sounds they hear are perfectly audible—not too much when surrounded by loud noises and not too little that they can’t hear quieter sounds. The hearing aids can be programmed and verified to exactly follow your hearing loss prescription.
2. Limits Amplification of Loud Sounds
Hearing aids typically have three parts: a microphone, an amplifier, and a speaker. The sounds are received through the microphone, which converts the sounds into electronic signals. The amplifier increases the power of the signals before sending them to the ear through the speaker.
Amplifiers can sometimes produce sound levels that are too strong, which can damage the residual hearing in your ear. Measuring and testing the sound from the hearing aids in your ear canal can confirm that the user is hearing the sounds they need to hear while limiting the amplification of too loud sounds.
3. Helps Measure Coupling of Hearing Aids:
There are three primary types of hearing aids:
- Behind-the-ear (BTE). BTE hearing aids are a hard plastic case behind the ear that is connected to an earmold that fits the outer ear. The sound travels through the hearing aid in the case through the earmold into the ear.
- In-the-ear (ITE). These hearing aids fit completely inside the outer ear. Some ITE aids can have additional features, like a telecoil, for example. The electronic components of an ITE aid are all held inside a plastic casing.
- Canal. Canal aids fit directly into the ear canal and are available in two types: in-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-canal (CIC). ITC aids are made to fit the size and shape of the person’s ear canal, while a CIC aid will be nearly hidden within the ear canal.
How a hearing aid is coupled to your ear canals greatly affects the effectiveness of the aid. REM data helps hearing care specialists determine whether you need an open or closed coupler to maximize the effectiveness of your hearing aids. The acoustics of different hearing aids change depending on the dome type (earbuds) or earmold, and real ear measurements can help choose the best one for you.
Can REM Be Done for Older Hearing Aids?
Real ear measurements can absolutely be performed for older hearing aids. As you age, your hearing needs might change, but so will your hearing aids. The parts may change, or they might have reduced efficiency. Real ear measurements can help determine if all the hearing aid components are working as well as they should be.
As a user, it can be difficult to tell if your hearing aids are working as well as they used to since the changes can be gradual. Real ear measurements can help provide an objective measurement to see if your hearing aids are still reaching your target amplification levels to help you achieve the best outcome.
REM can also be conducted independently of the manufacturer’s software, so they can be performed on virtually any hearing aid.
What Wichita Falls Hearing Can Do for You
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and American Academy of Audiology (AAA) both consider real ear measurements to be a best practice during hearing aid fittings.
Studies show that 79% of people prefer the settings of hearing aids programmed using real ear measurements compared to regular settings. However, only around 30% of hearing care practices perform this practice. At Wichita Falls Hearing we believe in superior outcomes, which is why we verify every hearing aid fitting with real ear measurements.
Our goal is to provide the people of Wichita Falls, Graham, Vernon, and nearby North Texas with the best hearing care services and technology available. We are a locally owned and operated practice that carries leading instruments from several manufacturers to help you find the ideal hearing aid for your needs.
With over 500 models to choose from and expert specialists to consult with, we are committed to helping you reach your hearing goals. If you’re not sure if you experience hearing loss, try out our online hearing test! To learn more, call us at 833-999-1940, or ask us for a price quote.