Cochlear Implants Hearing Aids

Hearing Aid Program Options

by Chelle Wyatt

Hearing aid program options are awesome these days! Both hearing aids, and cochlear implants, have a variety of options to help us hear better in different environments. Hearing devices have come a long way in the 30 plus years I’ve been wearing hearing aids. I’m more connected than ever, are you?

Ten years into wearing hearing aids, I got my first pair of digital hearing aids. They were a huge improvement over the analog hearing aids that turned all noise up. With digital hearing aids, I could better tolerate my work related noise in the salon. It was a smooth transition for me to go digital for me.

Technology keeps pace with my hearing loss, thank goodness. There’s so much more that can be done with specific programs in hearing aids (and cochlear implants) than ever before. Thank you technology for keeping up with my hearing loss!

Hearing aids with colorful molds. These new hearing aids have several programs on them, including ones I've tweaked on my own. 
Black hearing aids with battery doors open. Wires coming out and plugged into red and white molds.
My new hearing aids have 10 program options, a few I created on my own. Colorful molds are available too.
Do you know the program options available on your hearing aids or cochlear implants?

Some people are happy with 1 or 2 programs on their hearing devices, the most common one is the restaurant/noisy setting. However, there are more options for people like me who like more control for different environments. 

Some Hearing Aid Program Options

Technology changes fast. Older hearing aids will not have as many program options as new hearing aids.

  • Bluetooth – There is a setting for Bluetooth, with cell phones and other personal devices such as streamers for the TV. Bluetooth and telecoil give great sound. Most hearing devices are now Bluetooth capable. People love it when using the phone because the call goes into both ears.
    • Note: If used a lot, Bluetooth will use your batteries faster.
    • You can control how much streaming and environmental noise you want to listen too. Example, if listening to music, you hear 1/2 that and 1/2 of what’s going on in the environment. If you’re listening to a podcast and need to focus, you can go full into streaming with no environmental noise.
  • Telecoil/t-coil – Not all hearing aids have them but cochlear implants do. Sometimes providers might say it’s old technology. No, get one anyway and have the program turned on so you have all options. This will enable you to use a hearing loop, an assistive listening system that transmits sound from wiring in the floor to your telecoils/hearing aids. Depending on where you live, you might not have access to many hearing loops but when you do run across one, you’ll want to try it. Speech is so clear I can look down and take notes. You can also get small hearing loops for the living room to connect to your TV. *Note: T-coils do not use extra battery power.
    • If you have a telecoil & program, you can also use neckloops instead of headphones. Neckloops plug into any audio jack, the same as headphones. Headphones can make my hearing aids squeal, that noise that makes people cringe and ask what is that?! I prefer neckloops for that and the clarity.
  • Noisy Settings – The noisy settings help reduce background noise by focusing the microphones more forward, cutting off background noise. I’ve also found this program helpful in harsh acoustics cutting down the reverberation.
    • Restaurants are noisy. There is typically a setting especially for this. (See our post on restaurants.)
    • There could be a setting for Speech in Loud Noise, at least I set that up myself. I have the AuD set them microphone extreme forward and asked them to lower the noise level by a couple of nothes.
  • Music – We hear music differently than we do speech so this program gives us a fuller musical experience.
  • Stroll – Also can be called Speech in 360. Meaning, hearing aids will pick up speech from all directions. This program helps for side to side listening, such as walking next to people.
    • Tip: I found this program worked well in the car for me too.
  • Tinnitus – There’s a program especially for tinnitus. Is your tinnitus distracting you in quiet environments? This program adds ocean waves, white noise, chimes and other options. Even though I’ve habituated my tinnitus many years ago, I tried this program with ocean waves. It was so soothing, I used the program when I needed to relax too. When people came into the room, I could hear them fine and the waves receded into the background. When they left, the waves came back.
  • Speech in Wind – Have you ever heard the wind coming across the cell phone when someone is talking outside in the wind. That is what it can be like for hearing aids too. This program helps cut that sound down.
My old hearing aids which had 5 program options. Beige hearing aids with red and white molds on a blue towel.
My older hearing aids could only hold 5 options.

More hearing aid programs are available than ever before. The car is always a challenge, right? There might be a program for that. My new hearing aids also have a program the Television and Computer. Ask your hearing device provider what’s available to you. You can try one program at a time, or you can have several options, trying different programs keeping the ones you like. They are easy to put on and take off. They can also make a special program just for specific situations, ask!

Change it up.

It’s possible to change the lineup of programs. Smartphone apps for our hearing aids make changing the program easy. I’m old school so I like being able to change them physically too, pushing a button on my hearing aids. Because of that, I have my programs lined up in a way that is easy for me. From the master program, I…

  • Bump up to the stroll. 
  • The next one is the telecoil program. 
  • I had the tinnitus program here for a while. 
  • Last I have noisy settings. 

When changing programs, I can go up the line or down backwards. I liked having stroll and noisy settings on either side of my master program as those are the ones I use most.

Each program can be tweaked specifically.

As an example: In my noisy setting, I had my provider take the volume down a few more notches. I have a hard time with a lot of noise. Too much noise distracts me and makes my jaw hurt (I clench my teeth). I have it on a narrow focus forward. In the beginning it was a 45 degree angle. It allowed too much noise. I wanted to be able to concentrate on the person in front me. I can turn my head to listen to others to focus on them. Each program can be tweaked to your liking. 

Thanks to new hearing aid apps on the smartphone, we can tweak the programs further. Now we are able to “adjust program” with buttons for comfort, clarity, speech and surrounding. This is with the Phonak, your brand might have other options. Reminder: it’s the newer hearing aids that have more options.

Help your hearing aid provider help you.

Hearing aids come in a bundled price typically. You pay for future visits so make sure you get your money’s worth. If you don’t like the sound, go back until you do. Hearing through hearing aids will never be like normal hearing but you should be comfortable with the sound.

Keep a list of things that bother you, or where you might want more sound. Be specific. Example, I could not stand chopping vegetables on the cutting board with my hearing aids in and that’s what I told my provider. He got in the program, changed a few lines and I was better off.

Another issue of mine was sound compression. Hearing aids protect your hearing by compressing loud sounds. A Harley motorcycle went by and my hearing aids shut down completely. I waited, the motorcycle was long gone before they came back to normal. Meanwhile I missed a good chunk of conversation with my husband. My provider was able to fix this too.

Me wearing hearing aids while on a train tour.
I have short brown hair, a black top and I'm looking straight ahead while I listen. My read hearing aid mold shows up.

I can talk about hearing aids for hours! Hearing aids are great and keep me from having to work so hard with lipreading. I don’t have a CI but I have many friends who do. Feel free to share your tips about programming with cochlear implants.

Think about taking one of our Lipreading classes. We all use a little lipreading even with hearing aids. It’s like have 2 tools for communication!

No companion podcast but I talk about hearing aids in our short reels on our YouTube channel.

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