30 Jun FAQ – "My Dad has new hearing aids and still cannot hear well, why not?"
A great question and one we get all the time at Hearing Institute Atlantic. Let’s first start off by saying that a hearing aid, is just that, an aid to hear better, not an immediate fix. A hearing aid is not magic and won’t give you back perfect hearing just because you’re wearing it, but it will help you to hear better and that’s the goal, to improve your hearing, your communication and stay in touch with those you love.
So, what can folks do to improve their hearing, and get the most out of their hearing aids?
Selection – Having the right hearing aid prescribed for you is vital. Seek the services of a reputable company and have an audiologist make a recommendation of what circuit, what brand and what level of technology are right for you. Not all hearing aids are the same, far from it actually, so trust in your hearing health care provider. Have a good, open and honest discussion about what type will work best for you. Beware of the “one-size-fits-all” or “private” label devices available on the market, these are usually designed more for company profits and do not have patient needs or their success in mind.
Technology – As with most electronic devices, the level of technology is different in each device. A close discussion about the patient’s lifestyle, their listening requirements and their preferences is essential when choosing a level of technology in your hearing aid. The biggest mistake we see people make is choosing a low level of technology, when in fact they lead a vibrant and active lifestyle. You want the technology in your hearing aid to keep up with your life – so seek a technology level that is robust enough to support your activities.
Preferences – Today’s hearing aids have the ability to personalize the way you hear sound, an incredible feature that is available in modern hearing aids. Your audiologist will work with you to program your aids to hear sounds the way you like them. What we have seen in our practice, is an ongoing relationship between people and sound. Often changes to the programs and preferences of hearing aids is necessary as people get used to hearing better, hearing differently and of course hearing things they haven’t heard in years.
The Right Fit – Custom or non-custom, your hearing aid must fit correctly in order to deliver the best results. Take particular note when your audiologist is fitting your device on how to insert it, how to wear it (ie. with eyeglasses or hats) and how to keep it cleaned and performing at its best. And of course, make sure the battery is fresh!
Your Brain – Truly improving your hearing takes time, simply popping a device onto your ear is not enough. Why? We treat hearing loss with a hearing aid, an ear-level device, but how we hear happens in the brain. Our ears take in sound and speech but it’s in our brain where that sound becomes information that is understood. It’s here in our brain, where we recognize the sound as speech, voices, conversation or music. So when folks wear a new hearing aid, it takes time for the brain to adjust and recognize all the sounds the hearing aid is bringing to the brain, especially if they haven’t treated their hearing loss for a long time. Changes to the brain can take a long time, but a good audiologist will guide and support you through this process with expert advice, supportive communication strategies and top quality devices that support not just ear-level hearing, but brain hearing.
Clear Speech – One of the most important services we provide at Hearing Institute Atlantic is talking to families and friends about how to improve communication with someone who has hearing loss. Clear Speech is a practice that involves people speaking a little louder, a little slower and with pauses and shorter sentences. Just because your Dad, or another family member, is wearing hearing aid, doesn’t mean he can hear you speaking quickly, from another room, behind him, driving along in a car or in a room full of people. Remember hearing aids are not magic, they do work, but it takes the efforts of both the user and the person speaking to practice Clear Speech habits to truly improve communication.
Other Issues – While the points listed above are the most common issues we see, there are lots of other reasons why hearing with hearing aids can be affected, including:
- wax build up
- turning the volume down too low
- health concerns such as dementia, depression, Alzheimer’s
- a dead battery(!), or a broken device needing repair
- improper prescription or programming
- denial, perhaps a negative attitude, or unwillingness to accept treatment
Back to the initial question, if your Dad still is not hearing well, visit your audiologist to ensure the issues like selection, technology and fit are managed and after that, it usually in our experience comes down to improving Clear Speech practices. Rarely does a patient say that their loved one cannot hear them in a quiet room, or with one-on-one conversation, rather the issue seems to be when there are a number of people gathered together or a TV may be playing in the background, or more often than not, the speaker is not using Clear Speech practices without realizing the impact this can have on someone trying to follow a conversation.
Your audiologist is the best professional to help, and yes, there is help available. If your Dad, or loved one cannot hear well with their hearing aids, then let’s get together to resolve the issue and ensure your loved one is hearing their very best. Our goal, our mission at Hearing Institute Atlantic is to improve people’s hearing, a job we take such pride and passion in, so please reach out for support or advice – we can help.
Thanks to Melvin Riggs, Woodside, NS for this month’s question.