by Neil Bauman, Ph.D. and Steve Barber
January 12, 2016
A person asked,
I have recently been diagnosed with significant bilateral hearing loss. I will be seeing an audiologist to be fitted with hearing aids for the first time. What do I need to know about hearing loss and hearing aids? As a hard of hearing person, what do you wish people had told you when you were in the same boat?
Excellent questions. You are wise to ask these questions before you go to the audiologist so you are prepared and also have a realistic grasp of what successfully living with a hearing loss is all about.
My friend, Steve Barber, compiled the following and I’m reproducing it here with his permission.
He writes, “Here is my list of things to help someone new to hearing loss:
1. Vanity and denial are self-inflicted wounds–don’t fall victim. Accept that you have a hearing loss and vow to be the best hard of hearing person you can be.
2. No one else cares whether you have a hearing loss or wear hearing aids, but they do notice if you answer incorrectly, misinterpret what’s said, or say “What?” whenever anything is said.
3. It’s up to you to hear your best. This means not only using hearing aids, and perhaps assistive listening devices, but it also means you need to learn all about the features of those devices so you can hear your best.
4. While many audiologists and hearing aid dispensers are excellent, they won’t always tell you everything you need to know about hearing aid features, assistive listening technology and strategies that can help you cope the best with your hearing loss.
5. Hearing aids are terrific now compared to even a few years ago. They can make a huge improvement in your ability to understand speech, but you’ll still have difficulty in noise, when at a distance from the sound source, or in large rooms where reverberation is a problem.
6. Choose hearing aids that have the right features for your needs. So learn what features you need, and when and how to use those features.
7. Never buy a hearing aid that’s advertised as “so small no one will know you are wearing one”. Those hearing aids probably don’t have the features you need. Furthermore, no one cares about your hearing aids any more than they care about your glasses. Also, ask yourself, “Why would anyone advertise their product in a way that implies you don’t really want one?” Hint: I think the answer is “Stupidity”.
8. It usually takes a while for your brain adjust to all the new sounds you haven’t heard well for a long time. Expect a period of adjustment of up to 90 days.
9. Before you buy hearing aids, as a minimum, learn what you can about telecoils, directional microphones, and assistive listening systems.
10. Hearing aids are not like glasses. The prescription for glasses usually is spot on and doesn’t need any tweaking. That’s not usually true for hearing aids. You may need to go back several times to have them tweaked to more exactly fit your hearing needs.
11. Take advantage of the trial period (usually 30 days). Be prepared when you work with your dispenser to explain what things sound like if they don’t sound normal, and what sounds are irritating. Typically, your dispenser can tweak the settings to improve things.
12. If your loss is more than mild, be sure your hearing aids have telecoils. About 70% of hearing aids do have them, but you have to ask for them or you won’t necessarily get them. Also, make sure your dispenser activates the telecoils, adjusts them to your needs, and explains what you need to know about how to use them.
13. If your hearing loss is more than moderate, consider other assistive listening device options such as PockeTalkers, neckloops, FM devices, Bluetooth and the new 2.4 Ghz assistive options. They are similar to Bluetooth but without the pendant and with less annoying delay.
14. Join the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Not only will you be helping everyone else with hearing loss, you’ll be helping yourself.
15. If you’re near a local HLAA chapter, go to their meetings and events and meet others members and volunteers who know a lot about hearing loss and have more time than your dispenser does to fill you in on all you’ll need to know about being better at successfully living with your hearing loss.
16. Learn coping strategies you’ll need to know–where to sit in restaurants, what to say when job hunting, how to ask for a repeat. (Hint: Don’t just say “What?” or “Huh?”)
17. Keep your sense of humor.
18. Don’t withdraw. You can still be part of society. You can still hear at plays, movies, museums, etc. if you know about the various resources to help you hear better.”
In addition to the above tips, you can learn a lot more about hearing loss and what you can do to successfully live with your hearing loss by reading the following two excellent (and easy-to-read) books.