When it comes to a new pair of hearing aids, there are two main things to keep in mind: time and patience. Hearing loss is an invisible condition that often occurs gradually. It is estimated that people wait an average of five to seven years from the time they first notice changes in their hearing until they decide to seek treatment. During this time, you grow accustomed to duller sound.
Hearing aids, which are designed to amplify speech and clarify sounds in your environment, may be jarring for someone who has gotten used to unclear sound. Just as with all new experiences, there will be an adjustment period in which things don’t feel quite right. However, if you are patient and give yourself the time to get used to your new aids, you will experience the many benefits of treating your hearing loss.
Start Small with Time & Space
After your hearing aid fitting with your audiologist or hearing specialist, you’ll immediately notice how differently things sound. Hearing aid fittings happen in quiet offices, so you may be overwhelmed with your new hearing aids on the way home.
There is no need to rush. In fact, it may be uncomfortable to wear your hearing aids immediately to a loud public space. Set up a routine to get used to your hearing aids. Start small, in a quiet room in the house, and commit to wearing your hearing aids for a few hours a day. Focus on the different sounds in your environment, whether it’s a creak in the stairs or a bird outside the window. Give yourself time to hear the different nuances of sound you may have missed with hearing loss.
Speech recognition is one of the greatest challenges with hearing loss. With your new hearing aids, you’ll be able to pick up more speech sounds than before. Start with the sound of your own voice; read a book aloud to yourself and get used to hearing yourself speak.
As you grow more comfortable, practice conversations in person or on the phone. Some hearing aids are equipped with wireless streaming capabilities, which allow you to stream phone calls directly to your ears. Once you get comfortable with one-on-one conversations, expand to group conversations with multiple speakers.
Use this time to learn about the different features offered by your hearing aids. Test out the different program options available, such as speech in loud noise or soft speech in quiet settings.
Do Not Adjust the Volume
Though the access to clearer, amplified sound may be overwhelming at first, avoid turning down the volume. Your hearing aids have been fine-tuned and fitted to address your specific degree and configuration of hearing loss. As such, the goal is to get used to hearing at this level. Again, this is why it is important to practice listening a few hours a day in a quiet space.
In the event that you have practiced for a few weeks and the hearing aid levels continue to be overwhelmingly loud or uncomfortable, contact your audiologist or hearing specialist. Take note of the locations and situations in which you feel overwhelmed by your hearing aids’ volume. Your audiologist or hearing specialist may need to make small adjustments to your hearing aids to ensure a better fit.
Listening Exercises to Help You Hear
Did you know that hearing actually happens in the brain? Our ears pick up sound, which is processed by inner ear hair cells into neural impulses sent to the brain to be registered as sound. With hearing loss, these neural pathways may become dull from disuse. When you have access to clearer sound with hearing aids, it’s important to practice a few listening exercises to get your brain limber again.
Have you been waiting to binge watch a new TV show? Use this opportunity to practice with your hearing aids. While in the past you may have turned up the volume to maximum levels to hear, you’ll find that with hearing aids, this is no longer necessary. Turn on the captions and practice listening with your hearing aids as you watch. This helps your brain register speech and dialogue with ease. Another smart way to retrain your brain is to read along with audio books (which are often available through your public library).
Over time, you will grow accustomed to your hearing aids and one day, it’ll feel strange to experience sound without them! Be patient with yourself during this process as you work towards wearing your hearing aids all day.