Many people mistakenly believe that hearing aids will solve all of their woes and make everything around them sound perfectly clear. The truth is that hearing devices make it easier for one to communicate with one’s friends and family, but they are corrective devices like eyeglasses and cannot completely cure hearing loss. What they can do, however, is help maximize one’s hearing ability and improve one’s quality of life greatly. It is simply important to know what to realistically expect to get the most out of your hearing aids.
Make Sure Your Hearing Aids Are Comfortable
Above all other issues, a hearing aid should fit comfortably on your ear. The aid should also not be too loud or too soft. If your hearing devices are uncomfortable in any way, you should discuss the issues with the manufacturer or the place from which the aid was purchased. Most of the time, hearing aids can be adjusted to both feel and sound better for the wearer. Remember that you do not have to settle for discomfort, as this can lead to improper use of your hearing devices.
Remember that It’s Normal to Hear New Sounds
Many users of hearing devices find that they can hear sounds they may not have heard for years. These sounds - the refrigerator motor, birds chirping, doors squeaking, or even one’s own footsteps on solid ground - may seem annoying and intrusive at first. What you have to remember is that before your hearing loss, you also heard these sounds - but you eventually learned to tune them out so that they were not bothersome. This process will start over again, but it will take some time for you to acclimate to the sounds. Patience is critical, and you must remember that hearing these sounds actually means your hearing aids are working properly!
It Takes Time to Get Used to Amplification
While some people may take their hearing aids out of the box, put them on, and begin wearing them during every waking hour, this may be too overwhelming for most. Hearing aids give you a new way of hearing, and you will be hearing new, louder sounds for the first time in years. Because of this, you need to give yourself some time to get used to the new experience. To get the optimal experience, start by only wearing the hearing devices for a few hours a day. Each day, add a few more hours in slowly, until eventually you are using the aids all the time.
Using Hearing Devices with the Television and with Cell Phones
Two of the biggest complaints that hearing aid fitters often hear is that television and cell phones do not sound right to users of hearing devices. This is to be expected - hearing aids are intended for use in live sound settings. Even with your hearing aids, you may not be able to hear everything on a television, particularly if there is also music playing or the person speaking is off screen. And you may find you have distortion or interference with cell phones. In these cases, you may need to add assistive hearing devices that are intended for your situation - something to make your television louder, or a neck loop for your cell phone, for example. Your hearing aids will, however, still work well for everyday interactions.
Hearing aid users will likely find that in noisy situations - crowded restaurants or busy stores in a shopping mall, for example - they still have a hard time hearing a conversation. However, this is also normal. Even people who do not need hearing devices will have difficulty in such situations. When you are in a noisy place, ask the person that is speaking to you to speak slowly and clearly and to face you. If possible, you can turn yourself away from the main noise or move to a slightly less crowded area. With these adjustments, your hearing devices will have a better chance of doing their job.
Every hearing aid needs regular maintenance to work properly. You should clean your hearing aids daily, as they will likely accumulate dirt and even ear wax from standard use. You also need to make sure that you are changing your battery often. In order to keep hearing devices small and lightweight, batteries need to be kept small and lightweight as well. This means that hearing aid batteries may not last more than few days, and that replacement is critical. If you hear beeping in your ear, that doesn’t mean your hearing aid is broken, it just means it’s time to change the battery!
In addition, all hearing devices have a finite lifespan, no matter how carefully they are maintained. Components of hearing aids are small and delicate, and they will corrode over time. In addition, technology changes rapidly and it may not be worth fixing a hearing aid that has become outdated. The industry average for a hearing aid lifespan is four to five years. You may get more time out of it, but it is important to go into your hearing aid purchase expecting that you will need to replace your unit around this time.
In order to get the most out of your hearing aids, you need to do your research and understand the capabilities of the models you are considering. Once you have made your purchase, you should start out by reading the manual - something that many people are tempted to skip. When you understand what your hearing devices will and will not do, you will find that your quality of life is enhanced and that you are able to hear things you never thought you would hear again.
About the Author
Kelly Malick, MS, CCC-A, is an audiologist with America Hears, a distributor and manufacturer of digital hearing aids over the Internet. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the field of audiology. Prior to working with America Hears, Malick worked as director of government services for AHS/Interton. For more information about America Hears, please visit www.americahears.com.