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Best Practices Checklist

Why Hearing Aid Sound Quality Doesn't Matter

By: Dr Cliff Olson
November 15, 2018
Video Transcript

Chances are, when you get a new set of hearing aids, your hearing care provider will ask you how they sound.  They do this to determine your initial perception of sound quality with those hearing aids.  But what if I told you that it would be a huge mistake to use initial sound quality to determine if a hearing aid is right for you?I believe there are 4 reasons why you shouldn't focus too much on initial hearing aid sound quality when picking a hearing aid.

1. All major hearing aid brands have good sound quality - None of them lead the pack when it comes to sound quality.  Study after study shows that different brands come out on top. There is no consensus on which brand is consistently better.  As long as you pick a reputable manufacturer, the sound quality will be good.

2. Good initial sound quality often means that your hearing aids aren't programmed correctly - Hearing aid manufacturers have one goal, and that is to get you to wear their hearing aids.  However, this comes at a cost.  That cost is speech understanding.  Manufacturer First-Fit algorithms consistently under-prescribe high frequency amplification in order to make their devices have better initial sound quality.  No big deal until you realize that the high-frequencies is what determines speech clarity.  

3. Your brain will adapt to whatever hearing aid you wear anyway - It is widely accepted that hearing aid users need to acclimate to the appropriate level of amplification from new hearing aids.  This means that you may not like the sound quality of a hearing aid initially.  However, you will acclimate to this over time and ultimately prefer the sound quality of an appropriately programmed hearing aid.

4. Other hearing aid features may matter more - Since you will adapt to whatever hearing aid you choose anyway, you might as well get the hearing aid with the best features.  This includes a telecoil, rechargeability, or even connectivity with other bluetooth devices.  Each of which could have a major impact on your overall hearing ability.

At the end of the day, if you place too much emphasis on the initial sound quality of a hearing aid, you could be setting yourself up for sub-par speech understanding with a hearing aid that doesn't meet your needs.Instead, focus on hearing aid features, and finding a really good provider who performs Real Ear Measurement at your first fitting.  

5. Other hearing aid features may matter more - Since you will adapt to whatever hearing aid you choose anyway, you might as well get the hearing aid with the best features.  This includes a telecoil, rechargeability, or even connectivity with other bluetooth devices.  Each of which could have a major impact on your overall hearing ability.

At the end of the day, if you place too much emphasis on the initial sound quality of a hearing aid, you could be setting yourself up for sub-par speech understanding with a hearing aid that doesn't meet your needs.Instead, focus on hearing aid features, and finding a really good provider who performs Real Ear Measurement at your first fitting.  Real Ear Measurement video: https://youtu.be/cHR0Oa6I-wY

Dr Cliff's Thoughts

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