Anytime you try something new, there is an adjustment period as you get used to the new situation. Getting hearing aids is no different. It takes time to get used to the physical feeling of new hearing aids inside or on top of your ears. It takes time and practice to get good at caring for new hearing aids. And it takes time for your ears and brain to get used to all the new sounds that your hearing aids will allow you to hear. How much time it takes will depend on each individual person, but one thing is certain – the professional guidance of an audiologist will make the process much easier and more pleasant.
What to Expect as You Adjust to Your Hearing Aids
Some things you will have to learn include:
- Inserting and removing the hearing aids from your ears. This process is easy for some people and more difficult for other people. It can take a little bit more time and practice for those with mobility limitations in their hands, arms, or shoulders. It can also be a little more difficult for those with severe arthritis in their fingers. But an experienced audiologist will be able to choose the best hearing aids and make important modifications in order to ensure that every person can successfully insert and remove their hearing aids.
- Adjusting the volume. Most hearing aids have a button or a dial that allows you to adjust the volume. Sometimes this button is a toggle-style button, similar to the volume control buttons on most TV remote controls. Pushing the top side of the toggle increases the volume and the bottom side of the toggle decreases the volume. In advanced hearing aids, making volume changes to one hearing aid automatically makes the same changes to the other hearing aid as the two devices are connected wirelessly. This is nice for people who might not be able to use one hand as easily as the other hand. Other hearing aids have a single button on them. In this case, the volume is usually increased by pushing the button on the right hearing aid, and decreased by pushing the button on the left hearing aid. Finally, some hearing aids have a dial volume control that can be turned one way to increase the volume and turned the other way to decrease the volume. Most modern hearing aids are Bluetooth enabled and have smartphone apps that also allow easy volume changes.
- Adjusting the program. Your audiologist might create manual programs in your hearing aids for certain situations such as noisy restaurants, music, or outdoors. These programs can be accessed by pushing the button on the hearing aid (usually a slightly longer press than when making volume adjustments) or with the smartphone app.
- Cleaning your hearing aids daily. It is important to keep hearing aids clean so that they can function properly. Each night, when you remove the hearing aids from your ears, you should wipe them down with a dry tissue to remove any earwax from the part that sits inside your ear canal. In the morning, it can be helpful to brush the hearing aids off with an old toothbrush to remove any remaining earwax from the speaker, or any dirt or debris from the microphone openings (small holes on the top of behind-the-ear hearing aids or on the outside portion of in-the-ear hearing aids). Finally, it is important to know how to change the wax guard on your hearing aids. This is a tiny white cup that sits in the tip of the part of the hearing aid that goes into your ear canal and it stops earwax from getting into the speaker of the hearing aid. Your audiologist will teach you how to do this when you get your hearing aids. The wax guard should be changed anytime the hearing aids seem like they aren’t functioning properly.
- Opening and closing the battery door, and changing the battery. Hearing aids with non-rechargeable batteries are becoming less common, but if you choose this type of hearing aid, it is important to open the battery door each night when you take the hearing aid out of your ear so that the hearing aid isn’t running the battery down all night while it sits on your dresser. In the morning, you’ll close the battery door to turn the hearing aid back on before inserting it into your ear. These types of hearing aids will also require you to change the battery every few days. Hearing aid batteries are very small and can be difficult to handle for those with dexterity issues. They usually need to be replaced every 4-10 days, depending on the size of the battery. The hearing aids will typically give you an audible tone to let you know when the battery needs to be changed.
Sounds That Take Time To Adjust To
One of the most common comments I hear when people get new hearing aids is “My voice sounds funny!” The sound of your voice will be different to you with your hearing aids on because it is now going through a microphone and being amplified according to your hearing loss prescription. Interestingly, the sound of your own voice is also one of the first things that you’ll get used to! The more you talk, the faster your brain will get used to the “new and improved” sound of your own voice. I advise my patients to read books or magazines out loud and sing out loud to their favorite songs for at least 15 minutes every day in order to speed up this adjustment process.
Environmental sounds also take some time to adjust to. Most people want their new hearing aids to make voices louder, but they may not realize that their hearing loss was also preventing them from hearing many environmental sounds. In addition to making speech louder and clearer, hearing aids will also amplify sounds in the environment that are also important to hear for safety and general awareness. Sounds like running water, crinkling paper, the blinker in your car, and your footsteps on a hard surface may sound extra loud to you at first. But as your brain gets used to hearing these sounds at the volume that it is supposed to be hearing them, it will get easier for you to tune them out.
When you get prescription hearing aids from an audiologist, they will be programmed according to your hearing loss. The most common type of hearing loss occurs in the high frequency (high pitch) region of the cochlea, meaning people can’t hear high pitched sounds as well. Your new hearing aids will bring these high pitched sounds back into your life, and therefore sounds might seem tinny or harsh at first. But as your brain gets used to hearing high pitched sounds again, the tinny quality will turn into a clarity that you will love.
Tips for Adjusting to New Hearing Aids
Accepting that you have hearing loss and knowing how important it is to do something about it is the first step to successfully adjusting to your new hearing aids.
Having a positive attitude as you go through the process will make it more pleasant for you and your loved ones
It is also important to have realistic expectations about how hearing aids will feel and sound.
Education about your hearing loss, the hearing aids, and other resources that are available to you will be provided by your audiologist and will help you tremendously.
As with any new addition in your life, the more you practice with new hearing aids, the better they will work for you. Being patient and knowing that there is an adjustment process will help you to be successful and get the most benefit from these amazing devices.
While the new advancements in hearing aid technology are certainly incredible, the fact remains that hearing aids are only one part of hearing loss treatment. Working with an audiologist is critical to success with any hearing aid. Audiologists are the professionals trained to diagnose hearing loss, make appropriate treatment recommendations, accurately fit and program the hearing aids, and support patients throughout the entire adjustment process. Audiologists provide the education, counseling, and resources that ensure the best possible treatment outcomes.
What’s the difference between audiology and speech pathology?
Understanding the contrast between audiology vs speech pathology is crucial when addressing hearing or communication challenges. Audiologists are healthcare professionals who specialize in hearing and balance disorders. They assess, diagnose, and provide treatments for hearing loss, often fitting individuals with hearing aids.
Speech pathologists, on the other hand, focus on communication disorders, working with speech, language, voice, and fluency difficulties. They help individuals of all ages improve their communication skills. While both fields are vital for enhancing overall well-being, audiologists primarily deal with hearing-related issues, whereas speech pathologists address a broader range of communication challenges.
Audiologists and speech-language pathologists can work hand-in-hand as necessary to ensure the best improvement in a patient’s hearing and communication abilities.