18 May So, You Are Getting Your First Hearing Aid
The news can be bewildering. You went in for a hearing assessment and came home having been provided with a new hearing aid. How are you ever going to cope with such a tiny, technical device that you know very little about? You need to obtain as much information about hearing and hearing aids as you can find. Your audiologist will have manufactures’ brochures, research articles, general consumer information and lists of web sites which are available to you. Information about hearing aids will help to alleviate some of your fears and will answer many of your questions. The following are some suggestions to help you get accustomed to wearing your new hearing aid.
Realistic hearing aid expectations are very important. If you believe that hearing aids will correct all your hearing problems in all situations, and will restore your hearing to what it was in your youth….rethink these expectations. A hearing aid is just an aid to help you to hear better. It is not perfect and needs help from you to maximize its benefit. There are many factors that effect how well a person will adjust to and benefit from a hearing aid including the type and severity of the hearing loss, motivation, physical and mental ability. The age of the person at the time of the hearing loss and the age at which a hearing aid is acquired (the younger the wearer, the better their ability to adapt to a hearing aid), also effect how well a person adjusts to wearing a hearing aid. Realistic expectations of the benefits of wearing a hearing aid will greatly increase hearing aid satisfaction and promotes maximum hearing aid benefit.
Wear your new hearing aid as much as you can each day. It takes time to adjust to wearing your new aid. The brain needs to get accustomed to hearing again and to learn to ignore background noises. Begin by wearing your hearing aid in situations that are relatively quiet. Listen to sounds around you such as your refrigerator running or clock ticking. These are sounds that we all hear everyday. Once you know what the sound is, then it won’t be foreign to you when you hear it again. Eventually, you will be able to ignore most of the annoying sounds. The more you wear the aid the faster you will become accustomed to it. Wear the aid daily, for as long as you feel comfortable wearing it. You can increase the time you wear the aid until it is comfortably worn all day. You also need to practice putting in the aid and taking it out of your ear, adjusting the volume, (if it has a volume control) and changing the battery. All of this is made easy with practice.
Once you are comfortable using your hearing aid in easy listening situations, begin wearing your aid in more difficult listening situations. Wear it outside. Go to a public gathering, party, or family dinner. Experiment with your volume control, program button or remote control to see which setting gives you the best reception. Learn to “block-out” background noise and position yourself to reduce the amount of unwanted noise.
Practice concentrating on the sounds and voices you want to hear, ignoring those that are less important (background noises). Some difficult sounds to get accustomed to are wind noise over the microphone, the rustling of paper, running water, and the sound of chewing food while you eat.
Ideally, your hearing aid should soon feel natural in the ear. To achieve this, your hearing aid must be comfortable and not cause soreness to your ear. If you do experience discomfort, consult your audiologist who may need to have the aid remade to achieve a more comfortable fit.
Adjusting to the sound of your own voice may initially be difficult when wearing a hearing aid. This is because your own voice is being amplified by the aid and the aid is also partially blocking your ear canal which has the effect of trapping your voice inside your head. At first, you may not recognize the sound of your own voice. It is a good idea to read out loud to yourself while wearing the hearing aid. This will help you get accustomed to the sound of your amplified voice. It is helpful for someone else to tell you if you are talking too softly or loudly. This will help you monitor the volume of your voice.
Be aware that when you initially start to wear a hearing aid you may feel tired and overwhelmed. You are not accustomed to hearing all the sounds that you now hear. Your brain is working overtime to sort out and process additional sounds. Be gentle on yourself. Take a break from your hearing aid if you get tired.
A hearing aid is rarely perfect at the time of its initial fitting. Follow-up visits are often needed to fine tune the amplifying characteristics of the aid so you can hear as well as possible. Fine tuning is the process of hearing aid adjustments based on your personal comments about your hearing aid, and also technical analysis done by your audiologist. The hearing aid can be modified to increase audibility and acoustic comfort such as loudness, reduction of background noise, or perhaps reducing the “tinny” sound. Computerized hearing aids have the capacity for unlimited adjustments! Physical considerations must also be considered. It may be that the size of the aid has to be changed to accommodate aging fingers that have difficulty putting a very small hearing aid into the ear. Or perhaps a different wax guard system should be used due to excessive ear wax production. Good communication with your audiologist is crucial if you are to succeed in wearing a hearing aid.
Time will help you adjust to your new aid. Patience will ensure that you overcome the obstacles that will inevitably arise. The results will confirm that you have made a good decision in choosing to seek corrective measures to improve your hearing ability, and your enjoyment of life.