There are two vital factors in the way we hear – the ear itself and the brain.
And it doesn’t matter whether you’re new to wearing hearing aids, or have been wearing them for years – your brain needs time to adjust.
Unfortunately this doesn’t get explained to many new hearing aid wearers and this contributes to the reported 1-in-3 people who don’t wear the hearing aids prescribed.
At Value Hearing we’ve found we can reduce that 33% down to less than 5% (and further improve on it) by focusing on the all important follow-up processes and letting our clients know what to expect when fitted with their hearing aids.
To help maximise your success, I want to talk about four key factors:
- Practise, and
You won’t get the best out of your hearing aid if the choice to wear them is not 100% yours.
We see clients at our clinic who are only there because they’ve been nagged into it by other family members. Not surprisingly, these are often the people who do not give their best effort in working with their hearing aids.
The truth is unavoidable – it does take time to get used to hearing aids.
Initially, you will be conscious of physically wearing them – in the same way you feel conscious of wearing spectacles for the first time.
Then you’ll become conscious of all the sounds you can now hear. Sometimes that too can be overwhelming as the brain works out what to do about all this new sensory input.
So the number one thing you can to do to make hearing aids work for you is to make sure you are an active participant in your hearing journey. You’ll find it is a most empowering experience.
Most clients will adapt very quickly to their hearing aids, for some it can take weeks and for others as long as four months to get used to wearing them.
So be prepared for some changes in your life, but if you work through them, you’ll find the change is very much for the better.
There is something very important to know about hearing aids.
Unlike spectacles, which can often deliver perfect vision in many cases, hearing devices will help you maximise your hearing but it cannot give you “20-20” hearing.
Being prepared for the fact that the hearing aid cannot fully restore loss, and appreciating that the device is working to maximise your hearing potential, will help you avoid unrealistic expectations.
And finally, be prepared to make a few adjustments to your daily routine to get the best from your hearing aids and to help keep them in excellent working order.
It’s important to work in partnership with your family and your audiologist to help make the most from your new devices.
This is possibly the most important of the ‘four Ps’:
- Practise handling
- Practise wearing
- Practise hearing
- Practise maintenance
Practise handling your hearing aids. The more you are familiar with them, the more confident you will feel about wearing them.
If your hearing aids use batteries for instance, practice opening the battery door and taking out and reinstalling the batteries until you can manage the process with confidence.
This is no easy task for people with reduced dexterity and we encourage family members to be supportive and affirming during this phase.
Practise wearing your hearing aids. All of that new sensory input can be overwhelming at first, so wear your hearing aids for as long as you can, ideally 10 hours a day.
Some clinicians will set the volume of hearing aids on the high side to give their clients the ‘wow’ factor. However, at Value Hearing we prefer to err on the side of setting the hearing aid at a lower initial volume to help you to quickly become more familiar with sounds you’ve been missing.
One useful tip is to practise wearing hearing aids in quiet conditions (such as at home) to get used to the hearing ‘new’ sounds without having to cope with too much noise, as you would find in a shopping centre or a noisy restaurant.
Practise hearing. Now it’s time for some ‘brain training’.
One great activity is to go to your local park, sit down on the park bench and close your eyes. Concentrate on one type of sound – the sound of a bird in the trees, a dog barking, the rustling of the leaves, the sound of children playing on the swings, the tick-tick-tick of the wheels of a bicycle as it goes by. That will help you to isolate sounds and correctly identify them.
It will also help you learn to filter out general background noises that you can now hear, but don’t need to pay close attention to.
Practise having conversations both one-on-one and in small groups. Having new hearing aids is a great opportunity to more deeply connect with friends and loved ones again through conversation.
Turn down the TV volume to what other people in your household consider to be ‘normal’ levels and practice listening. Television news and talk shows are excellent to start with, as the volume and the cadence of speech tend to be consistent during the length of program. If you need to, consider using closed captioning and subtitles until your brain gets used to processing and interpreting the signals it’s receiving.
Another technique is to read aloud, to gauge a sense of a suitable speaking volume.
Some people find it useful to keep a daily diary of experiences with a new hearing aid. Jot down your notes and observations. Be as detailed as possible and then review the evening before your first follow up visit with your audiologist to see if those early observations still hold true.
You might find that sounds you found difficult to process, like annoying background noise, or your voice sounding too loud, is less of an issue after several weeks of working with your hearing aids.
Bring your notes with you to share with your audiologist for that first post-fitting appointment as adjustments to the devices can be made at your visit.
Hearing aids require maintenance and we have a feature right here to help you maintain your hearing aids in excellent condition.
They say patience is a virtue, and nowhere is that more true than when it comes to wearing hearing aids.
There is a lot for the brain and the body to process, so don’t be too disheartened if you’re struggling at first.
One side effect clients we hear frequently is new users feeling tired after first wearing hearing aids – and it’s no surprise! Your brain is having to do a lot more work to receive, process, analyse and interpret all the new sounds you’re hearing. That consumes a lot of energy.
Let your family and friends know to be patient with you during this time. I have a useful article here on hearing your best in difficult situations which has some advice for yourself and your loved ones on how they can assist you.
Practice, patience and perseverance will reward you with maximised hearing.