When it comes to improving your hearing, a hearing care professional is your best friend.
Hearing aids are getting close to offering immediate hearing restoration, but the technology is still imperfect. Expectations of a return to completely normal hearing following a fitting often leave wearers disappointed and unwilling to move forward. It is unrealistic to anticipate 100 percent hearing restoration in every situation, especially right away.
The key to hearing aid success involves forming an active partnership with your hearing care professional, reading all materials provided, and following directions. During follow-up visits, your hearing care professional will answer any questions that may arise with use, make any technical adjustments, clean your hearing aids, and generally help you adapt to and enjoy your hearing aids. Here is what to expect during these follow-up visits.
During the first follow-up visit, your hearing care professional will ask you a series of questions regarding your experience wearing hearing aids. Prepare yourself by taking notes during your first few weeks of use and by testing the effectiveness of your hearing aids in a wide variety of listening environments, including ones that you don’t encounter regularly. By describing your overall impression of the hearing aids—what you do and don’t like, and any expectations exceeded, met, or unmet—your hearing care professional will be able to provide strategies to encourage positive growth and reduce complications.
Honesty is also crucial. While hearing care professionals are highly-trained, they are not mind readers. Taking control of your hearing health by discussing your satisfaction (or lack of) with your devices’ performance can be the difference between mild hearing improvement and a significant increase in hearing ability.
At the end of the day, your hearing is your responsibility. If you are not totally satisfied with the products or services your hearing care professional provided, use our online locator to schedule an appointment with someone who can more effectively addresses your concerns.
Your hearing care professional will periodically assess how much benefit you are receiving from your hearing aids. Part of these outcome measures will be gathered through an interview or questionnaire, while the remainder will be evaluated by testing how well you hear with and without the hearing aids in different environments.
Air and bone conduction tests can determine your ability to hear tones and speech sounds in quiet and loud environments. Your ears may also be examined with the help of an otoscope that captures the images within.
The results of these tests will be presented on your audiogram for evaluation. This chart will demonstrate the strongest and weakest points of your hearing for a comprehensive look at how hearing loss has affected you. This process will become familiar after a few visits, and you will likely begin to see your results improve over time.
Rehabilitation and counseling
Think of your hearing as a muscle that has atrophied. To build it back up, you should expect to perform regular hearing and communication exercises, particularly in the weeks immediately following your fitting. Some of these exercises may be done at home on the computer.
You may also be referred to some sort of counseling, either individual or group, specifically for hearing aid wearers. Group sessions may be all-in-one scheduled classes where you will learn everything from rehabilitation exercises to how to clean your hearing aids, as well as receive emotional and psychological support while transitioning back into the hearing world. Many hearing loss support groups are also available online in the form of message boards and interactive blogs so you can stay connected with the hard-of-hearing community.
For rehabilitative resources and information on how to find a support group on your area, visit the Hearing Loss Association of America and the Association of Late-Deafened Adults. For children and adolescents who have trouble adjusting to life with hearing aids at home and/or at school, the HLAA has provided a list of materials to establish a network for hard of hearing youth. With the help of social media and other online resources, young people can educate themselves on the importance of hearing protection and reduce the stigma associated with hearing loss. For more information on how hearing loss affects children, click here.
Regaining communication skills
Hearing and listening are two very different processes. While hearing occurs automatically and involves the transmission of sound waves to the brain, listening is an intensive activity that involves focus and concentration. Over time, those with hearing loss may lose the ability to listen effectively. This is likely due to the strain required to understand other speakers, which can encourage disengagement or lack of interest. Just as your hearing loss didn’t develop overnight, your communication skills will return gradually with the proper therapy routines.
When hearing loss affects the ability to participate in conversations, visual cues and body language take on more important roles. Since the brain understands speech through a combination of visual and auditory systems, learning how to hone in on these non-verbal signs can allow your hearing aids to function more effectively. Taking care to be an active listener with your new hearing aids will speed up the process of recovering lost communication skills.
When encountering an environment for the first time, new hearing aid wearers should also experiment with positioning themselves in different parts of the room. This way, you will be able to determine the spots that provide the best acoustics to suit your listening characteristics. Your hearing care professional will be able to provide guidance on the best ways to become a more active listener and communicator during regular follow-up visits.
How family can help
Your hearing care professional isn’t the only one who can assist you on the path to recovery. Family members are often the first people to notice when a loved one’s hearing has weakened, and they are a valuable source of guidance. Having an open discussion with your family members about the degree of your hearing loss and the features of your hearing aids can lead to fewer misunderstandings for everyone involved.
If your family members speak too quickly or quietly, ask them to slow down while adding emphasis to consonant sounds that are difficult to hear, such as f, s, and th. You should also educate family members about the best ways to keep noise to a minimum during conversations with you, such as leaving the television off.
Contact a hearing care professional
Your best hearing may begin in the audiologist’s office, but it shouldn’t end there. Speak with a hearing care professional today to schedule a follow-up appointment so you can learn how to make the most of your hearing aids in your everyday life.