by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
If you are new to wearing hearing aids, you need to learn the best ways to adapt to wearing your new hearing aids. Otherwise you may dump your new hearing aids in a dresser drawer, give up and conclude hearing aids don’t work—not to mention wasting all those thousands of dollars you just poured down the drain.
It takes time for both you and your ears/brain to adapt to wearing new hearing aids, especially if you have had a long-standing hearing loss, or if you have a more severe hearing loss. It also takes time to learn all the things you need to know about hearing loss and wearing hearing aids. This just doesn’t happen overnight!
For example, if your audiologist turns up the volume on your new hearing aids to where you really need it, a sudden cacophony of sounds you haven’t heard for a long time assaults your ears and overloads your brain. That’s when you reach up and yank your new hearing aids out of your ears and vow never to wear them again.
The solution is to learn to hear again—slowly. You need to start with your hearing aids set softer than optimum and slowly increase the volume over several weeks as your brain relearns how to deal with our noisy world.
In his article “Good habits pave the road to success” (The Hearing Journal, May, 2010) audiologist Robert Martin explains how he puts this concept into practice. For people new to hearing aids, he deliberately sets the initial gain and output settings low. That way he can, “maximize the comfort of the sound and avoid all types of overload.”
Furthermore, Dr. Martin tells his clients that for the first few weeks they should not to wear their hearing aids in crowds or noisy places. I’ve been saying these same things for years.
He has another practice that endears him to me and that is, he sees every newly-fitted client once a week for the first 4 or 5 weeks to make sure everything is working properly.
This has some wonderful advantages that I wish all audiologists and hearing aid dispensers would follow.
First, he can deal with any problems as they come up. For example, he can tweak the hearing aids to eliminate any noise sensitivities such as the dog barking, doors slamming, etc. that otherwise might “blow the top of your head off” when these sounds recruit (you perceive them as abnormally loud).
Second, another advantage of this approach is that he can slowly increase the sound output levels to where they need to be as the person’s brain adjusts to the increased volume of sounds.
Third, he can answer more of their questions as they come to mind. One of the things that hard of hearing people suffer from at the outset is information overload. They just don’t remember all the instructions and guidelines their hearing aid fitters tell them at the time they get their hearing aids. Thus by having his clients come in several times, he spreads this information out over several weeks so it can more easily be assimilated.
In addition to the above, some savvy audiologists give a copy of my article, “Becoming Friends with Your New Hearing Aids” to all their new clients to help them successfully adapt to using their new hearing aids. Here are the last three paragraphs of this article.
Adapting to your new hearing aids may take a week or a month or a year—everyone is different. The important thing is to keep at it. Don’t compare your progress with others.
If you only have a mild loss, you may adapt to your new aids the first day—it may be love at first sound. If your hearing loss is severe, you likely will take much longer to adapt. The same is true if you have had a hearing loss for many years before doing anything about it.
However, when you finally adapt to wearing your hearing aids, something surprising happens. The day will come when you will actually feel undressed unless you are wearing your hearing aids. You realize just how much your hearing aids help you successfully cope in the hearing world. Without realizing it, you and your hearing aids have become close friends indeed!
This could be you! Read “Becoming Friends with Your New Hearing Aids” here.