Programming Your Hearing Aid: DIY versus Audiologist

Modern hearing aids and personal sound amplification devices can be programmed at home, but should they be? Learn about the pros and cons of DIY versus Audiologist programming.

July 19, 2022

Modern technology is incredible, and modern hearing aids make great use of it. Today’s hearing devices can connect to phones, tablets, TVs, and wearable microphones in educational settings, to name just a few. But there’s a whole world of science behind hearing aids that allows them to provide clear hearing without feedback and frustration.

At your initial fitting, audiologists take special care when programming your hearing aid to make sure it does its job right. Using your audiogram and physical ear measurements, you can expect that your hearing aid’s programmed settings are designed specifically for your hearing conditions. But what if you need to program your hearing aid after the initial fitting?

Why DIY Programming?

Let’s say you’ve noticed certain background noises are more bothersome than before. It’s now possible to program your hearing aid outside of an audiology office to correct this kind of problem. Hearing aid programming software is now available through the internet, so self-programming has become more common. And now with over-the-counter personal sound amplification products (or PSAPs) available, self-programming may become even more common when cost is a significant factor.

For some, self-programming means fewer trips to the office when little tweaks need to be made. Others may think the cost of a second or third fitting might be prohibitive. For others, maybe it’s just a desire to have more control over your own hearing solutions. In any case, with enough research, time, and effort, you could adjust your hearing aid programming in the comfort of your own home.

Why Professional Programming?

But this flexibility could bring some risks and limitations. On a practical level, there is a steep learning curve to learning how to program your own hearing aid properly. Trained audiologists use many variables to correct hearing loss, including the shape of the ear canal itself. Without accurate measurements, your programs may be inaccurate, unhelpful, or even harmful.

Along with the complexity of a hearing aid, it’s worth considering where you’re experiencing difficulties hearing. Background noise, tinnitus, and frequency-specific hearing loss are all addressed through professional programming. While it’s possible to make your own programs and adjustments, it’s worth thinking about the time investment to get each of these set properly before you start your own programming.

It’s also worth noting that the initial offering of PSAPs has seen some backpedaling, as these devices can’t keep up with the technology and programming options of prescription hearing aids. Even Bose is pulling back on its over-the-counter assistive devices, citing shortfalls in their abilities to address hearing issues adequately.

Programming Your Hearing Aid with an Audiologist

Audiologists are trained to ensure hearing aids properly correct hearing loss. When you visit an audiologist, you can expect that they’ll provide solutions for your specific case. DIY programming for your hearing aid may not take into account all the factors that affect your hearing. Through physical ear measurements, your hearing aid programming is customized to your exact needs. Audiologists also take into consideration any specific problem frequencies for each individual, which means that your hearing aid gives amplification to only the sounds you struggle with.

With the technology available to reprogram hearing aids and PSAPs at home, it’s easy to think that this might be the most effective way to set up your hearing devices. However, hearing aids are more than just volume knobs. And for those who are concerned about cost, contact your audiologist to see what options you have. Many hearing solutions are more affordable than you might think.

Instead of risking costly errors doing it on your own, let your audiologist customize your programs so that you can once again enjoy conversations, your favorite shows, or your favorite music without damaging your hearing or missing a single moment. It’s worth the investment.

Written by
Reviewed by
Mandy Rounseville-Norgaard Au.D.
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Dr. Norgaard has over 15 years of experience in practicing audiology, and a lifetime of experience wearing hearing aids. Dr. Norgaard was born with significant hearing loss in both ears and has worn hearing devices since the age of 3.

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