Fluctuating Hearing Loss

Self-Programming of Hearing Aids: The Solution For Fluctuating Hearing Loss?

Fluctuating hearing loss – what is it?

Hearing levels that change over time is one of the characteristics of Meniere’s disease. Sometimes hearing is not so bad, sometimes it is very bad, and sometimes it even goes back to normal.

Characteristics of fluctuating hearing loss

Dr McNeill and her colleagues found out that hearing fluctuations in patients with Meniere’s disease can be very short-term. In their research paper, they present a person with Meniere’s disease that had 3 significantly different audiograms within a period as short as 24 hours.

Difficulties with fitting a hearing aid in fluctuating hearing loss

If you suffer from fluctuating hearing loss it means that the audiogram made by your audiologist is just a snapshot and does not reflect what happens with your hearing from hour to hour or from day to day. Your audiologist will also find it difficult to fit a hearing aid based on one or a few audiograms. And you end up with a hearing aid that might not have the right setting most of the time for your hearing loss.

Could patients measure their own hearing levels?

Dr McNeill showed in 2005 that it is possible for people to measure their own hearing levels over the day and program their hearing aids accordingly. One of her first test patients was a 51-year-old male with Meniere’s disease. He used a portable testing device to record his hearing fluctuations 3 times per day for a period of 8 weeks. A portable self-programming device was applied by him to adjust his hearing aids according to the test result. After this experience, Dr McNeill concluded that:

This study demonstrates the feasibility of training a patient with fluctuating hearing loss to reliably measure his own hearing levels and program his hearing aids to enhance the level of satisfaction with amplification”

Successful patient-programming for fluctuating hearing loss

In 2008 Dr McNeill and her colleagues reported on a self-programming of hearing aids study in a group of 40 patients with Meniere’s disease. After this study, 70% of them continued to program their own hearing aids using the portable testing and programming device.

 “They reported great satisfaction because they are now able to adjust their own devices when their hearing fluctuates”.

What to do if you experience fluctuating hearing loss?

If you are experiencing fluctuating hearing loss you are advised to seek a referral to an audiologist or ENT specialist. Several audiograms will usually be part of the investigation. A qualified audiologist can provide professional advice regarding the best hearing aid for your situation, but can also provide adequate advice, support and training regarding self-programming of the hearing aid.


  1. Celene McNeill. “A hearing aid system for fluctuating hearing loss due to Meniere’s disease: A case study”. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Audiology. Volume 27, number 1 (May 2005), pages 78-84.
  2. Celene McNeill, Simon R.M. Freeman and Catherine McMahon. “Short-term hearing fluctuation in Meniere’s disease”. International Journal of Audiology. Volume 48, number 8 (2009), pages 594-600.
  3. Celene McNeill, Catherine M. McMahon, Philip Newall and Mary Kalantzis. “Hearing aids for Meniere’s syndrome: Implications of hearing fluctuation. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. Volume 19 (2008), pages 430-434.