Taking the first step towards improving your hearing and lifestyle can be a difficult one. Many people wait too long before getting hearing aids; in fact, research has shown that the average time between noticing hearing difficulties and purchasing hearing aids is 8 years. Once you’ve made the decision to take action, the journey towards improved hearing can sometimes be a rocky one, but it can be made easier if you know exactly what to expect. Your hearing specialist isn’t just there to fit hearing aids; they’re there to guide you through each step of the way as you adjust to a world of new (and louder) sounds.
Adjusting to your new hearing aids usually takes time. The amount of time this can take usually depends on a number of factors, including:
- How motivated you are to improve your hearing by wearing your hearing aids. It’s important that your decision to purchase hearing aids is because you want to improve your hearing for yourself, and not because you’ve been pressured by your family or friends to get them. If you’re not motivated to wear them, you will find excuses to leave them in the draw.
- How long you’ve had a hearing problem. Your hearing aids are designed to amplify the sounds that you’ve been missing. If you haven’t been hearing certain sounds at all, or hearing sounds at a lower volume than they actually are, it can be a little overwhelming at first. In general, it will take time before you’re ready to hear all of these sounds – your hearing specialist will initially adjust your hearing aids to a level that will give you back some of these sounds, but not too much so that it becomes overwhelming to hear. This means that it can take weeks, or even months, before your hearing aids can be adjusted optimally for your hearing problem.
- The severity of your hearing problem. Most hearing problems develop gradually, so if you’re new to wearing hearing aids but your degree of hearing difficulty is more severe, then you’ve probably had a hearing problem for a longer period of time. As with the above point, it will take more time before you’re ready for your hearing aids to be adjusted optimally for you to hear well. Expect an improvement to begin with, but hearing most things well can take some time.
- How often you wear your hearing aids. When your hearing aids are first fitted, they might not sound natural to you because ‘normal’ hearing, at that point, is how you’re hearing without the hearing aids. It will take time for all those new sounds that your hearing aids are amplifying to sound normal to you. If you only wear your hearing aids some of the time, it will take longer to adjust to them. We live in a world where there are sounds all around us constantly, so wearing your hearing aids more often means that you’re hearing all of these sounds and can acclimatise to them accordingly. Wearing your hearing aids for sustained periods of time gives your brain a chance to relearn how to hear sounds, effectively retraining it to hear.
If you’re struggling to notice a marked improvement in your hearing after one month, talk to your hearing specialist. They might be able to adjust the hearing aids to improve things, or discuss other options, as it could be that the hearing aids you’ve been fitted with aren’t the right ones for you. Hearing aid clinics usually offer a trial period, which allows you to return the hearing aids or exchange them for another option if you’re not satisfied. However, there might be fees applicable in these instances, so be aware of the terms and conditions concerning returns or exchanges prior to purchasing your hearing aids. It is important to discuss any concerns with your specialist during your trial period so that they can work with you to ensure a positive outcome.
Knowing what to expect from your hearing aids can lead to a more positive and successful experience. Wearing hearing aids won’t give you super hearing; they won’t even give you back ‘normal’ hearing, even once they’ve been adjusted optimally for you. While hearing aids won’t provide a cure for hearing loss, they will improve your hearing ability for easier communication for improved quality of life. If you feel that your hearing aids are helping but finding it difficult to adjust to the new sounds, remember that this does take time, and it could even be months before you’re able to experience the full benefit of them. Patience, perseverance and realistic expectations are key factors to succeeding with hearing aids.