By Ann L. Rhoten, Au.D., CCC/A
Kentucky Audiology and Tinnitus Services
I am constantly shocked by the number of new patients who come to my office who already have hearing aids that they never wear! Why? Because they didn’t fit right, weren’t comfortable, were of poor quality, or they didn’t know how to use them properly.
When it comes to hearing aids, everyone’s needs are different. The first – and most important – step to making sure you get the most out of them is to purchase devices that are specifically designed to meet your lifestyle. Do you spend a lot of time on the phone? Is most of your day spent in conversation with others? In loud places like restaurants? Some devices are better suited to loud environments while others have special features that aid phone conversations.
An audiologist who is knowledgeable about your needs and concerns can work with you to make sure you get the best equipment for your unique situation. Once you’ve found the right hearing aids, here are some hints on adapting to them:
Take it slow. Chances are, your hearing has been in decline for years. With your new hearing aids, you will hear sounds that have completely faded from your awareness: the coffee pot, a ticking clock, the furnace, water heater, street traffic. At times, it can be overwhelming. For the first few days, spend time with your hearing aids in a quiet environment, listening to the various sounds and trying to identify where they are coming from. This will help you acclimate to the new sensory input and help your brain develop the ability to block out background noise.
Talk to yourself. Most people are surprised to find out how loud they speak or how their voice sounds. This is totally natural as your brain has been receiving muffled auditory input for some time. As you talk to yourself, practice adjusting the volume and tone of your voice and listening to the changes.
Time to go out. After your quiet start, it’s time to take your hearing aids for a spin. Go out for lunch, the mall, or the grocery and experience the noise of public spaces. Listen for the various sounds and try to isolate them. The goal is to keep training your brain!
Start talking to others. Conversation is the heart of the human experience.
Talk to your friends and family, at first individually and then in groups. In group conversations, you’ll have to practice focusing on one speaker at a time and blocking other conversations from your mind. It will take work, but you can do it!
Build up your use time. As you become more comfortable with your new hearing aids, extend the amount of time you use them. After six to eight weeks, you should be able to wear your aids all day long without trouble. If this isn’t the case, be sure to talk to your audiologist about any problems you may be having. In most cases, all that’s required is a simple adjustment. Some people report irritation from their hearing aids. It’s important that you keep your devices clean to avoid bacterial infection. Another possibility is an allergic reaction to the materials used to manufacture the devices. Hypoallergenic hearing aids are available.
Get adjusted. Go back and see your audiologist as recommended, especially during the initial breaking-in period. Discuss any problems you may have had or any adjustments that might be helpful to you. Most audiologists will make adjustments free of charge for at least a year after purchase. Take advantage
of this service! After all, your hearing aids won’t do you any good in a box or a drawer.
Ann Rhoten, Au.D., is an audiologist with Kentucky Audiology and Tinnitus Services, 1517 Nicholasville Road, Suite 202, Lexington. Kentucky Audiology offers FlexTrial, allowing our clients to try out their hearing aids in daily situations before making a commitment. For more information, please call K.A.T.S. at (859) 554-5384.