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Monday, April 12, 2010

The Clean Slate Approach to Hearing Aid Programming

Recently I have been hearing some voices on radio and television as "tinny". There seemed to be a ringing sound behind the words they said. Concerned about this, I made an appointment with my audiologist to find out if perhaps my hearing aids needed repair or reprogramming.

I was assured right away that there was nothing broken with my aids. So I asked my audiologist if my hearing aids could be reprogrammed back to the settings they had in the beginning. I explained that when I first got them, I had trouble coping with fan noise and another audiologist had done some "creative programming" to solve the problem. It worked but ever since then, I have never heard speech as clearly which is my number one reason for wearing hearing aids. I've had various tweaks and volume adjustments done in the three years since and I was certain my current programming was pretty far off of what the original settings had been.

The audiologist thought that was a good idea. She erased my current programming and used the manufacturer's software to reset it to the profile recommended for my hearing loss. When I put the hearing aids in my ears, though, I couldn't even tell they were on until I tapped on the mics. The audiologist fixed that by increasing the gain twice. Much better.

Driving back to work, I was able to keep my hearing aids in the first program (for quiet environments) even with the window down. This is something I haven't been able to do for a long time. Previously the sound of the road, other cars, and my own car's engine always made me uncomfortable so I would turn the aids to the second program (for noisy environments). I also noticed that the jangling of my keys hanging from the ignition bothered me a lot less.

Back in my cubicle at the library, I was happy to discover that I could continue to wear my aids in the first program. Usually I had to have them set to the second program due to an unpleasant sound they picked up from a nearby mechanical closet. With this new programming, I didn't hear that noise at all!

When I saw my son that evening, I was very pleased at the sound clarity of his voice. Lately he had been very frustrated by my frequent misunderstanding of his speech and constant requests for constant. Later on I surprised myself when I had a conversation in my driveway with a neighbor past twilight when it was too dark even to see her face clearly. In times past, I would have avoided a situation like that at all costs.

Today while walking in to work, I looked up and saw a seagull flying overhead. Then I heard its wings. I was so amazed. I had been really certain that my previous experience hearing a bird's wings had been a once in a lifetime experience.

Tomorrow I will have a shift at the reference desk. That will be the litmus test. I'm trying to stay hopeful that I will hear better there, although I have to admit some of the distracting noises in that area continue to sound loud to me.

If you're interested, here's a printout from my audiologist visit that shows my new settings. You can click on the photo to view it larger.


PinkLAM said...

Glad that seems to have done the trick! About 6 or so months back I felt like I was in a rut hearing-wise, and nothing sounded clear or right. I was constantly going back to my audiologist for little tweaks to see if they made a difference, and we were both getting frustrated because they weren't! Finally, she decided to try completely reprogramming from scratch, and ended up changing some major settings that most people don't usually mess with, and changed it to a setting most people don't like. Well, I never follow the norm, and ever since then I've been hearing just fine :)

Steve said...

Hi Sarah,

Very interesting post. Any idea why you started to get that tinny sound in the first place?

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi PinkLAM,

Thanks for sharing your experience.

I think the lesson here is to ask your audiologist when something doesn't sound right. That was hard for me to do but I was so pleased that the audiologist listened to me and made a change.

All the best,

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Steve,
The audiologist never explained that.
Thanks for your comment,

Glenice said...

That is great Sarah. It sounds like programming hearing aids has greatly improved since I was a hearing aid user. It is wonderful that they benefit you so much. By what you described, they must be able to program hearing aids in a similar fashion to the way my cochlear implants are programmed. The technology just keeps getting better - and I hope it continues!

Jonathan said...

Great story.

Not having made the leap to digital hearing aids, it's good to read about these kinds of things. Thanks for sharing, Sarah.

kim said...

I'm glad the new programming worked so well for you! I can't believe you heard flapping wings either! So cool! :-)