During a hearing aid fitting, a hearing healthcare professional will fit hearing aids that are programmed according to a user’s hearing profile. The user may have to undergo additional tests to optimize the fitting of the hearing aid. They will also be given information on how to use and care for their new aids. A hearing aid fitting may often require more than one appointment before the user is completely comfortable and satisfied with their new aids. To give the user the best sound quality it may be necessary to adjust or fine-tune the hearing aids.
What is fine-tuning?
To fine-tune a hearing aid is the process by which a hearing healthcare professional can physically make adjustments to the way that a hearing aid is amplifying sound at different frequencies. It is usually conducted based on feedback from the user. These adjustments are usually made to ensure that specific hearing targets are reached or are not exceeded, as well as to ensure that the hearing aids match the user’s particular lifestyle and needs.
Once these adjustments are made, further follow-up and fine-tuning may be required. A hearing healthcare professional will typically schedule a follow-up appointment after approximately two weeks, during which fine-tuning may need to be conducted again. This time allows users to “test” their hearing aids and identify real-life situations during which their hearing aids may not be functioning optimally.
The adjustment period to a hearing aid fitting, as well as hearing aid fine-tuning, may differ from person to person, thus some people may only need one follow-up or fine-tuning appointment whereas others may require a few more.
When do you fine-tune a hearing aid?
Some common complaints from patients that may require fine-tuning include:
- Problems with the user’s own voice.
Your voice may sound unnatural and distorted, muffled, hollow, as though they are in a barrel/tunnel, or like they have a cold/blocked ears
- Sound quality issues.
Sounds may sound tinny, sharp, harsh, unclear, or muffled. Hearing aids may cut in and out.
- Trouble with feedback.
Hearing aids may produce a high pitched squealing or whistling sound.
- Issues relating to the loudness of one’s hearing aids.
Voices, environmental sounds, or the hearing aids overall may be too loud or soft. Some sounds may even be painful such as the clattering of dishes or traffic.
- Problems with intelligibility.
Speech may not be clear or one may struggle to hear the TV and radio.
- Issues when in the presence of noise.
Difficulty hearing speech in the presence of background noise or background noises may overall be too loud and bothersome. One may hear sounds at a distance better than those close by.
- Difficulty when listening to music or in the presence of background music.
How to prepare for a fine-tuning appointment?
Your hearing healthcare provider will often rely a great deal on your feedback to ensure that your hearing aids are comfortable and functioning according to your needs. Keeping a record of your experiences will help your hearing healthcare provider make the correct fine-tuning adjustments needed. It may be a good idea to include what listening situations have improved, as well as which situations are still difficult for you to communicate. It is of benefit to also note how often the problem arises and what you have done to try and improve the listening situation. For example, you may have noticed that you can hear and communicate much better with your spouse at home but still struggle in a busy restaurant setting. Try to be as detailed in your notes as possible. Involving a close family member or friend who communicates with you daily may also assist your hearing healthcare provider to identify beneficial ways in which to fine-tune your hearing aid.
How often should hearing aid be fine-tuned?
In the initial stages of wearing hearing aids the desire may be great to have the hearing aids fine-tuned regularly. This desire often subsides as you start to get used to the sound quality of the hearing aids and as your use increases. However, over time, hearing aid users may again notice that certain issues may arise that will require one to consult a hearing healthcare professionals provider for fine-tuning.
Hearing healthcare professionals often recommend annual hearing assessments. This is to monitor any changes in your hearing profile. Often hearing aids are adjusted at this time to accommodate any changes in the hearing and needs that you may have. Hearing aid service and maintenance checks are recommended every six months.
A hearing healthcare professional will conduct a fine-tuning assessment to ensure the most comfortable and natural listening experiences possible. These adjustments are usually made during the initial fitting, at follow-up appointments, after any changes to your hearing profile or physical fit of the hearing aids, or at any instance during which you may feel that your hearing aids are not functioning optimally. However, it is important to remember that while the fine-tuning of hearing aids may improve your comfort and experiences, there may still be certain situations where you may still struggle when communicating. Your hearing healthcare professional can recommend certain communication strategies that may be used in conjunction with your hearing aids to ensure optimal benefit.