Comfortable Hearing Aids
Hearing aids can be a daunting topic for many first time users or even their family members trying to be supportive in this new endeavor. Let me help break down some of the differences you will be presented with after visiting your local audiologist! Hearing aids don’t have to be scary or overwhelming!
Finding The Right Hearing Aid For You:
Finding the right hearing aid style for you should include an open discussion with your audiologist about your listening goals for your hearing health. Factors that should be discussed and considered in this decision include degree of hearing loss, lifestyle, goals of hearing aids, communication needs, Bluetooth capabilities, rechargeable versus disposable batteries, and overall appearance of the devices.
Hearing aids come in different physical body styles. Styles of hearing aids include receiver in the canal (RIC) and behind the ear (BTE) devices, custom in the ear (ITE) devices, and custom completely in the canal (CIC) and invisible in the canal (IIC) devices. Each device has their own list of benefits and your audiologist will help you decide which will be most successful for you. Behind the ear (BTE) hearing aids are typically recommended for small children or those with severe to profound hearing loss. These are the bulkiest style of hearing aids, but also can include manual controls, rechargeability, and Bluetooth connectivity. Receiver in the canal (RIC) hearing aids are appropriate for mild to severe hearing loss. These are similar to the BTE style, but more discrete and modern. RIC hearing aids are the most common type of hearing aid used today. Custom in the ear devices are appropriate for mild to severe hearing loss and require taking an impression of your ear. These devices are helpful for individuals with vision or dexterity difficulties because there is only one single component to the hearing aid. Some RIC and BTE styles use a custom ear mold in addition to the piece behind the patient’s ear which also requires an impression of the ear to be taken. CIC and IIC devices are very similar, but more discreet within the ear canal. These are great for individuals who do not want the hearing aid to be seen by others.
There is not one physical style of hearing aid that is better than the others. The best style for you may not be the best style for a loved one and that is ok! We all have our own individual characteristics
How To Make Hearing Aids More Comfortable
An important aspect of hearing aids is creating a comfortable fit, but this requires time. You physically can compare hearing aids to glasses. In the first few days, you will notice the lens and frames, and how they sit on your nose and ears. You will often even see the frame of the glasses in your vision. However, after those first few days, you begin to forget you are even wearing them. The frames disappear into the background and you see clearly with no obstructions. Hearing aids require this same physical adjustment period only, it often takes a little longer to adjust because our perception of sound is more specific and personal than our vision.
In order for your hearing aids to fit comfortably, you should discuss your preferences and lifestyle with the audiologist. The audiologist can use this information to choose a specific style of hearing aid or earpiece to ensure a comfortable fit that best suits your needs. The initial fitting may be enough to get your hearing aids fit correctly, but some adjustments may be needed in the first few weeks. Be open to these adjustments and keep open communication with your audiologist about overall fit. After the first few weeks, just like glasses, you will hardly notice you have hearing aids in your ears.
The second part of the hearing aids fitting comfortably is the listening side of the fitting. Your audiologist should be using Real Ear Measures (REM) when performing your hearing aid fit. This is our way of verifying what exactly is going into your hearing aids. Without REM we have no way to validate the fitting. Adjusting to “full prescription or targets” to your hearing aids is a process. For some people, they are able to accept the prescription easily and have no difficulties. For others, we might need to work towards hitting full targets over a period of time as the initial fitting may be too much for a person to handle. REM is an incredible tool that should be utilized in all fittings and at various points in the follow up process as concerns arise.
How To Adjust When You First Use Your Hearing Aids
Well fit hearing aids will give you access to sounds that you may not have heard for a long time. This often requires an acclimation period for your brain, as it attempts to focus on important speech information. During your first few days with hearing aids, you will hear your car turn signal, clothes rustling, water running and other sounds that may seem loud and bothersome. You may also feel your voice is louder than before! It isn’t but your perception of your voice has changed as you are hearing it both internally and externally, through the hearing aids too! Typically, programming adjustments are not needed to fix these sounds. Your brain will begin to acclimate and reacquaint itself with the sounds around you! Your brain will recognize that some sounds are not as important as sounds as others. It will start to learn to focus on speech and communication. For this adjustment to happen though, it is important to wear your hearing aids consistently. With consistent wear time every day, your adjustment to hearing aids will be smooth and you will learn to hear and love the life you live.
Hearing aids are an important step in regaining healthy hearing for those who experience hearing loss. There are a lot of factors in your success with them and hopefully, this article will help you sort through some of the options you will be presented with! Key pieces of information to remember are you need to feel comfortable with the audiologist you choose to complete this journey with, make sure they have the right tools to complete the best fit for you, both physically and acoustically, and have an open and positive attitude to this new adventure.