The Hearing Aid Experience
Hearing aids have evolved from uncomfortable and bulky devices to sophisticated, stylish wonders of technology with options to compensate for almost every type of hearing loss.
The evolution of hearing aids has made them more inconspicuous without sacrificing power or versatility. While analog hearing aids of the past simply made sounds louder, digital hearing aids present a whole new opportunity to restore damaged hearing. The following are only a few examples of how hearing aids can help. Digital hearing aids:
Accentuate speech and suppress ambient sounds in noisy environments.
- Hearing loss can become difficult to manage when it affects communication. By isolating speech sounds and quieting background noise, digital hearing aids can enhance the contours of language according to your degree of hearing loss to make it louder and easier to understand.
Help you clearly identify the direction from which sounds are coming.
- Directional microphones installed in each set of hearing aids work with the movement of your body to determine where your listening attention is focused. This is especially helpful in a crowded space like a cocktail party where competing voices and sounds can impede one-on-one conversation.
Pick up sounds transmitted directly from devices, such as TVs, phones, gaming consoles, and smart house systems.
- Hearing loss affects more than your relationships—those who can’t hear their smoke alarm or incoming traffic sounds can be seriously hurt if they don’t react quickly to danger. Connect your hearing aids to a number of devices to get all the audio information you need without delay or interruption.
Amplify higher pitched sounds (important for understanding speech) but not lower pitches that only add volume.
- Hearing aid wearers of the past used to complain that their hearing would become muddy or booming in loud spaces. By selectively increasing the volume of sounds within certain frequency ranges, digital hearing aids create the sensation of a clear and open listening environment.
Getting to know your new hearing aids
Among those who are fitted for hearing aids, nearly 40 percent do not wear or use them correctly. Considering the negative psychological and physical effects of hearing loss, it is unfortunate that so many people would neglect their hearing health when the solution is available to them.
No matter the reason, hearing loss is always preventable with the right preparation and guidance. Proper hearing aid maintenance begins early, which makes the first few weeks essential when it comes to establishing a healthy hearing routine.
Hearing restoration is a long-term process, so knowing what to expect with your new hearing aids can keep you from feeling discouraged. Once you have chosen your hearing aids and had them properly fitted, you will gradually get used to wearing them every day. However, like anything new, you should expect some time to pass before you are completely accustomed to this new world of sounds.
Learning to hear again
One thing you may not anticipate is what it will be like to hear sounds again that you haven’t heard for a while. Not all of them will be pleasant—kids cracking gum on the subway, a dripping faucet, the drone of home appliances. It is normal to find much of what you hear very irritating, especially when you first start using hearing aids. You might also perceive certain sounds as too loud, such as a ringing telephone.
When hearing is functioning normally, the brain can distinguish between sound sources and isolate what’s important. Since this ability is weakened with hearing loss, functioning comfortably with hearing aids is generally a gradual process. Just as your brain readjusted over time to a loss of hearing, it now has to get used to the many unfamiliar sounds. Rest assured that your brain will learn how to tune out, and tone down, the new sounds around you.
Not all returning sounds will be bothersome. In fact, if your hearing aids have been fitted properly, you should experience far more pleasant sounds than uncomfortable ones. The clarity of a loved one’s voice or birdsongs and rustling leaves can be particularly moving when heard clearly for the first time in many years. With improved hearing, you’ll be able to actively participate in discussions, listen to your favorite music, and enjoy countless other life experiences again.
The adjustment period
After your fitting, your hearing care professional will provide you with a schedule for wearing your new hearing aids. This is done to help make the rehabilitation process smoother, as the transition from having uncorrected hearing loss to wearing a hearing aid can be jarring. An adjustment period is completely normal as your brain gradually reduces the ways in which it had been compensating for your hearing loss.
Expect the adjustment period to take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Before long you will be able to hear and understand much more in many different environments. Wear your hearing aids as often as directed by your hearing care professional and follow these recommendations:
- Begin using your hearing aids first thing in the morning and wear them until you go to bed.
- Avoid taking them out even if you think you don’t need them, such as when you are home alone.
- Keep a journal in which you write down your positive and negative reactions.
- Pay close attention to the volume and quality of sound in different environments and tell your hearing care professional about your experiences at your follow-up appointment.
- Deliberately expose yourself to various listening situations.
- Attend any group or individual training sessions recommended by your hearing care professional.
Depending on the hearing aid technology and your own preferences and lifestyle, you may need to have your hearing aids adjusted a few times until things sound right. Even if you adjust quickly, it is still recommended that you schedule an appointment with your hearing care professional after the initial period to make sure your hearing aids are working safely and effectively. If possible, write about your experience with the hearing aids during the first few weeks so you can have a detailed conversation with your doctor about how best to move forward.
The right attitude is the key to success
Although you may initially find it hard to get used to wearing and hearing with these devices, patience is the key to hearing rehabilitation. Over time, you’ll see that the advantages and greater quality of life provided by hearing aids always outweigh the mild inconvenience of maintaining them.
Positive thinking can also make a difference. Remember that while hearing involves the physical transmission of sound waves through the ear, it is mostly a mental process that can be manipulated by our attitude. Lowering your anxiety about hearing loss can greatly reduce symptoms of tinnitus and feelings of alienation and fatigue. True progress will only be made once you decide that you will enjoy the ability to hear again—even if everything you hear isn’t necessarily delightful.
Contact a hearing care professional now
We can help you schedule an appointment to get tested by a hearing care professional. After the initial adjustment period with your new hearing aids, you will quickly begin to see your life change for the better.
Explore more on treating hearing loss:
- Signs and symptoms checklist
- Identifying hearing loss in others checklist
- Economic impact of hearing loss
- Hearing loss in children
- Appointment checklist
- Dealing with resistance
- Encouraging friends and family to seek treatment
- What to expect at your first fitting
- Lifestyle inventory checklist
- 10 things to ask at your first fitting