Real Ear Measurement (REM)
Accurate hearing aid fittings are key to happy hearing. Finding the appropriate hearing aid can be a daunting process. An appropriately selected hearing aid is crucial for an individual with hearing loss. Recent studies have shown that approximately 60% of individuals who purchase hearing aids are not fit appropriately. This means that in many situations, the hearing device sold to the individual is not even loud enough to amplify sound at particular frequencies, so that person can perceive speech more clearly; or the device is not programmed properly for that person’s hearing loss. The end result is not a good one. Usually, it ends with new hearing devices and no perceived benefit. Most people in this situation end up very frustrated and give up on using hearing aids.
Make sure the professional who is programming the hearing aids has a doctorate degree in hearing loss and is performing real ear measurements. If the professional selling hearing aids are not performing real ear measurement testing, they are providing a huge disservice to their clients. Real ear measurements require the placement of a probe microphone down in the ear canal by the tympanic membrane (eardrum). The probe microphone measures the sound that is coming out of the hearing aid at the eardrum level while the hearing aid is on the individual’s ear. Programming software for hearing devices has specific targets for various hearing loss configurations, however, no two ears are the same. If the software has a set target for the hearing aid, and the acoustics of the ear canal is not taken into account, the hearing aid will not be programmed properly for that particular individual.
Real ear measurement is the most important measurement performed while programming hearing aids, in order to have an accurate fitting.
Know what questions to ask when you purchase hearing aids. Taking the cheaper route usually ends up costing more in the long run. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid big box stores with cheaper prices. Most of them do not offer the service and care you will get from a licensed audiologist. The place you buy your toilet paper and laundry soap in bulk is not the best place to treat your hearing healthcare and can result in inappropriately fit hearing devices. Would you get your teeth fixed by someone who was not a licensed dentist? Would you let someone perform surgery on your body if they were not a licensed physician? Why would you let someone treat your hearing loss who has no education in hearing loss and is not a licensed audiologist?
Verify that the hearing professional is following the “best practices guidelines” as recommended by the American Academy of Audiology and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). This will save you money and save you frustration in the long run. Hearing aids are necessary and an important first step in treating hearing loss.