REAL-EAR MEASUREMENTS: WHAT ARE THEY AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

Has your audiologist recently positioned you in front of an unfamiliar computer and asked you to sit very still and quiet while they perform measurements on your hearing aids?   If they have not done this, they should!  These measurements are called real-ear measurements which are imperative for appropriate and successful hearing aid fittings on all hearing aid users.

We at Audiological Consultants of Atlanta take pride in our patient care and attention to detail. We believe that if we do not practice audiology by appropriate standards that we are not doing right by our patients or our profession.  Part of practicing audiology by appropriate standards is using evidence based practice.  This means that we practice audiology based on information and evidence from our audiology research community.  The audiology research community continuously publishes peer reviewed studies to help the audiology community better understand and treat hearing loss.  Real-ear measurements have been proven by the audiology research community as the gold standard for hearing aid fitting verification.

Real-ear measurements are important because they measure how a hearing aid’s intensity (volume) and frequency response (pitch) are affected by your ear. When hearing aid manufacturers create a hearing aid and decide how to program it they do so based on one sized and shaped ear.  Real-ear measurements allow us to apply the hearing aid fitting to your specific ear.  Using real-ear measurements, we are able to measure how your ear affects the intensity and frequency response of the hearing aid and adjust the hearing aid settings based on that response.  The results are hearing aid settings that are best suited for the size and shape of your ear and for your hearing loss.

When we do real-ear measurements, we start by putting a thin, soft tube into the ear canal and playing a sound to measure how the size and shape of the ear affects and changes the sound. Next, we put the hearing aid into the ear and play speech and other sounds to see what amplified sound looks like as it arrives at the ear drum.  Finally, we make appropriate adjustments based on the patient’s audiogram, the response we see on the computer screen and, the patient’s feedback as to how the hearing aid sounds.  We also use evidence based amplification targets to help guide our decisions as to how to set the volume of the hearing aids.

At ACA we do real-ear measurements to assist with all hearing aid fittings. However, we also use real-ear measurements when we need to make adjustments to hearing aids at hearing aid checks, to show us when a hearing aid is weak or not working correctly and needs repair, and to give patients’ a visual demonstration of what they are or are not receiving in terms of amplification from hearing aids.

Unfortunately, there are my audiologists who do not use real-ear measurements in their audiology practice. We believe this is a mistake.  Not only does it make their job more difficult, but not using real-ear measurements also results in less accurate and less effective hearing aid fittings.  At ACA we use real-ear measurements because we pledge to serve our patients with the best Audiological care.  According to evidence based practice, the best audiological care cannot be provided without the use of real-ear measurements.

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