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Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Top Five Methods for Hearing Aid Success

Top Five Methods for Hearing Aid Success

People often have unrealistic expectations when it comes to their hearing aids. Silence is less abrasive than sound, so a hard of hearing person, conditioned to hearing less, will sometimes give up on their new hearing aids when a few adjustments and some patience could’ve made all the difference.

The other day I struck up a conversation with my neighbor about hearing aids. She’s had hearing issues for many years, but told me that she had stopped wearing her hearing aids five years ago. Since she has small children and has a need to hear for safety reason, at the very least, I was surprised by this and asked her why. Unfortunately, I turned my head when I asked the question to wave at my son, and when I turned back I had to repeat myself, louder and slower. Once she understood the question, she told me something that many doctors of Audiology might be familiar with. She said, “It was too noisy.”

This might seem like an unbelievable reason to not use hearing aids, but in fact it is quite common. When people lose their hearing they become conditioned to the silence. They withdraw into themselves and cut themselves off from others, thus the noises of the world and everyday sounds once returned seem overwhelming. Like my neighbor, some hearing aid users, feel besieged with sound and don’t understand that getting used to these seemingly powerful noises can be normal when first dealing with hearing aids.

As Dr. Peggy Sheets points out on her Hearing Well Blog, “When trying hearing aids for the first time, one of the biggest challenges a person faces has to do with learning to hear and process all of the sounds that haven't been perceived for so long. Noises like the refrigerator motor, or the sound a nylon windbreaker makes, as our arms move back and forth, which aren't processed because of the hearing loss. We lose the ability to recognize and identify speech sounds and it takes time to re-train the brain. The longer you go without treating your hearing loss, the more time and patience it takes to go through the adaptation process of treatment.”

It’s possible that my neighbor would never have stopped using her hearing aids, and that the time she lost communicating with her children and husband would not have been wasted, if she had been better informed to have more reasonable expectations as to the time it would take her to get used to her new hearing devices. Here is a list of ways to get used to sound again and your hearing aids.

Go Slow: As Dr. Neil Bauman points out on Hearing Loss Help, “Your brain needs from 30 to 90 days or even longer to complete this process—so if you give up before this time, you will think hearing aids don't work for you and you could be very wrong.” Hearing loss patients should realize that getting hearing aids is not the same as getting glasses. Glasses require few adjustments, and when they are placed on the difference is instantly clear. Hearing aids take time to work at their optimal level. That’s because they are complex, intricate, and personal piece of technology.

Make Adjustments: In addition to the sounds that can seem overwhelming from the world, there is also the difference in the sound of your own voice. The occlusion effect—voice distortion that sounds hollow or booming, can often be fixed with a few simple adjustments. As Hear-it.org points out, “In most cases, creating a passageway through the hearing aid to unblock the ear solves the problem. This allows the vibrations of the patient's own voice to escape the ear. A larger passage promotes a more normal sounding voice.” Accepting that your hearing aids are going to need adjustments and preparing yourself for that fact will put you ahead of the game when it comes to expectations on your hearing aids.

Work Up to It: You wouldn’t go out and run a marathon without training, and you shouldn’t expect to be able to wear your hearing aids non-stop the moment you get them. The hearing loss journey really doesn’t have to be a choice of all or nothing! If you are overwhelmed, you don’t have to give up on your hearing aids. Wear them for portions of the day to begin with—avoiding times when you know they are going to need the most adjusting or will prove most irritating—like social settings. Make sure you set a goal, a definite amount of time that you will wear your hearing aids every day. Increase it every day or every few days. If you do this consistently, one day you will realize that you have worn your hearing aid all day and never once thought of taking them off!

Have Realistic Expectations: As the Better Hearing Institute notes, “There is a common misconception that hearing aids are the "cure all" for hearing loss. In reality, improving communication involves a long term rehabilitative process in which the hearing aid is only part. As such, you should enter into this rehabilitative process with realistic goals and knowing what to expect from the hearing aid and your hearing health provider.”

Get the Most Out of Your Hearing Aids: Hearing aids are most effective in close settings without a lot of background noise, so there are going to be times when your hearing aids will need some assistance. For example in a lecture hall or in a crowded restaurant, but take heart, there are many kinds of assisted hearing devices that will work with your hearing aids to provide you clarity of hearing while blocking out background noises. Check out People Hearing Better’s earlier post on hearing aid technology to find out more!

If you'd like to learn more about hearing loss, hearing heath, and hearing aids click HERE to DOWNLOAD our free guide to hearing health!

This guide will teach you:
▪ The 3 different types of hearing loss
▪ How to help a loved one hear you
▪ 8 different hearing aid styles
▪ Advances in digital and wireless hearing aid technology.

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