Whether you’ve raced straight to your audiologist at the first signs of hearing loss, or you’ve put off the inevitable for decades, your hearing assessment and hearing aid fitting appointments often lay the foundations of your entire hearing aid experience. The information you provide to your audiologist guides the selection of hearing aid manufacturer, style, model, amplification strategy, programmes, controls, wireless accessory options, etc., so it is important to use your appointment time wisely and provide the concise and highly relevant information your audiologist needs to provide you with a hearing aid that is perfectly tuned to your individual needs. Read on for a guide on how to get the most from your hearing aid assessment and fitting.
1. Answer consultation questions with concise and highly relevant answers
Every good audiologist will conduct an initial consultation, which should involve a medical history questionnaire and further questions about your lifestyle and problem listening situations. The purpose of the medical history questionnaire is to screen for any symptoms that may need onward referral, for example to an ENT specialist, and also to guide further diagnostic tests. Avoid giving too much detail on less relevant information, such as unrelated or historic illness or other people’s experiences. Instead, try to answer questions with concise responses that answer the question directly. This allows your audiologist to cover all the questions they need to ask and get a clear understanding of your hearing needs.
2. Be honest
Most audiologists want to help people with hearing loss. While there are of course some hearing aid dispensers who are just out to make money, the vast majority of audiologists have a good understanding of the negative impact hearing loss can have on someone’s life and a strong belief in the potential benefits of today’s hearing technology. It is not at all uncommon for people with hearing loss to be in denial, and this is very human, but playing down your hearing difficulties or blaming other factors only serves to prolong your struggle and prevent your audiologist from providing help.
3. Give specific examples of typical difficult listening situations
When it comes to your hearing aid fitting, your audiologist will programme your hearing aids in a way that best compensates for your individual lifestyle and challenging listening situations. Today’s hearing aid technology is highly advanced and, in most cases, devices can be programmed to work automatically, including volume changes, noise reduction and how the aids focus their microphones forwards in noisy environments. Think about your lifestyle day-to-day. Is most conversation 1-2-1 or in groups? Are you most often in quiet or sometimes in noisy environments? Do you spend much time outdoors? Do you listen to music or play a musical instrument? Do you struggle to hear speech when watching television or talking on the telephone? Do you particularly struggle to hear speech clearly in background noise? If you can provide a clear and concise description of your daily lifestyle and difficult listening situations, your audiologist can prescribe your hearing aid fitting more accurately and finely tuned to your individual needs.
4. Further fine-tuning – try to provide clear descriptions of problems and give specific examples
Most audiologists will invite clients back to the clinic a few weeks later for a follow-up appointment, especially if after an initial trial period. If you are having a few problems and want some further fine-tuning of the sound or some changes made, try to provide clear descriptions of your experiences. Your audiologist cannot experience your hearing first-hand, but instead has to make adjustments in the fitting software purely based on your feedback. Vague comments such as “it sounds a bit strange” or “sometimes I can’t hear” give the audiologist nothing to go on. Instead, use logical descriptive words such as “traffic is too loud”, “speech sounds very tinny or harsh” or “speech on TV is not clear”. Specific examples are always helpful, for example, “I went to a restaurant on Saturday and, while using the Restaurant programme, I could not hear conversation clearly because of the background noise of all the other people talking” is more informative than “I can’t hear in noise”.
5. Embrace modern technology!
Hearing aid technology is advancing at a faster pace than ever before. While this can be daunting to some, newer technology in hearing aids often makes using a hearing aid easier, not more difficult. Historically, a hearing aid wearer would face the challenge of having to press a button to change programmes or volume, whereas today, not only are hearing aids much more intelligent and change settings automatically, most manufacturers now offer smartphone apps, which allow end-users to abandon the need to feel around their ear to fiddle with ear-level controls and instead adjust simple-to-see controls on a smartphone or tablet. Most hearing aid manufacturers also offer other wireless streaming devices to connect to your television and many now offer tele-audiology technology, which allows you to request hearing aid sound adjustments through your app.
The key to a successful and productive hearing assessment and hearing aid fitting appointment is good communication. If you can provide clear, concise and relevant information to your audiologist, he or she will be more equipped to conduct a thorough assessment and provide a finely tuned hearing aid that is personalised to your individual needs.