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JAN

Posted on Monday, January 23, 2012

Listening Devices: The Sound Problem

Despite the many benefits of hearing aids and other listening devices, they introduce a new problem--finding comfort with sound again. Silence is less abrasive the sound, so the return of noise can be startling to someone using a new listening device. This adjustment period is normal. Hearing loss is unique to each person, so sophisticated listening devices need to be adapted for individual use by an audiologist. Working with an audiologist is key to ensure an individual has their hearing aids set to their preferences. Unrealistic expectations around listening devices mistakingly lead some people to turn off their hearing aids and subsequently the world.

What is loud to one person may not be loud enough for another. As Professor Ray Meddis—who is developing customizing software for hearing aids, pointed out on Gizmag, “Our work has shown that, when it comes to hearing impairment, no two people are alike. That's why two people with apparently similar hearing thresholds often react very differently to their hearing aids."

When you have hearing loss, and are aware of all the amazing things that today's listening devices are capable of, there is a tendency to have Cinderella expectations. As in--the hearing aids will be like a magic wand and the return of sound will require no adjustment. Reality does have happy endings, but generally people have to work toward that success. Most people with hearing loss are aware of the extended road to hearing health, but some media can create unrealistic expectations.

Recently there has been a rash of Youtube videos showing someone’s first experience with hearing aids or other hearing devices. Here is one of my favorites of Sarah Churman—deaf since birth after having her hearing implant put in and activated.

http://www.youtube.com/user/hawser09

This video packs a powerful message, and it is quite touching. What we don’t often see, and what the woman in this video—Sarah Churman has graciously shared on her blog, is what happens when the person goes home and is inundated with sound. In Sarah’s own words taken from her blog, In the World, but Not of the World…:

“Foot steps, car doors, engine starting, already tired of hearing myself swallow. Lol. I kept asking "Is this normal? Do you hear that? Does that always do that? Is there a cup rattling around in the back of the car?”

Sarah seems to have been told that she will experience this kind of sensory overload. She speaks on her blog of having a remote and being on the lowest setting. Her doctor told her if she went any louder her brain would not be able to handle it, and that she’d have to increase the sound level slowly over time. Her joy at hearing doesn’t seem to diminish with the new challenges that her listening devices present. Radek Dvorak, a member of our People Hearing Better community, whose story will appear in February, had a similar experience after receiving his hearing aids. As he put it:

“Wow. That's all I could really say for several weeks afterwards. All the noises, the eses,cees, zees, tees, dees... wow, they sound different! And, boy, those kiddos, they sure talk a lot!”

There are a lot of miraculous things that listening devices do and restoring the kiddos talking is just one of them. Hearing aids have been shown to help with depression, create more positive relationships, and strengthen brain function, but every person looking into upgrading or getting their first hearing aids should have realistic expectations. The benefits of listening devices far outweigh the adjustment period, but the key to success with hearing aids is to remember that achieving great results requires more than glitter and fairy dust. So work with your audiologist , have realistic expectation, and a little perseverance when it comes to getting reacquainted with sound.

RESOURCES:

University of Essex, Colchester Campus. New software ‘hearing dummies’ pave the way for tailor-made hearing aids 13 June 2011 Web. Extracted on October 25, 2011 Taken from: University of Essex :: New software ‘hearing dummies’ pave the way for tailor-made hearing aids :: Colchester Campus

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