Nothing Is Quite So Lonely As a Silent World!
Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to hear. It’s almost like the world is going on around you without you being a part of it. The goal at The Hearing Doctor is to make sure that you have every opportunity to be involved in life, not just watching from the sidelines. There are a number of ways to get maximum benefit from your hearing aids, but like many things in life they require effort and adjustment on your part! In this section you will learn what realistic expectations you should have about hearing aids as well as ways to help you fulfill your hearing aid expectations.
Unlocking the Keys to Your Hearing Success – Setting Realistic Expectations
Here are some issues you should keep in mind as you develop appropriate expectations about what your hearing aids can and cannot do for you:
- Restore hearing. No matter how technically advanced, in most cases hearing aids cannot restore your hearing to normal, except in some very mild hearing losses.
- Types of hearing aids: Not all hearing aids perform the same with every type of hearing loss.
- Hearing in noise: No hearing aid has been designed that will filter out all background noise. Some hearing aids can reduce amplification of some types of background noise or make you more comfortable in the presence of noise. The most effective solution for improving speech intelligibility in noisy situations is hearing aids with directional microphones. When directional hearing aids are coupled with digital signal processing, you can be assured that your hearing aids are optimized for improving your quality of life in noisy environments. You probably don’t remember but even when your hearing was normal their were situations that you had difficulty hearing clearly in, such as a noisy club/bar, wedding reception with loud band playing, hearing people at the opposite end of a long table, etc. If a person with normal hearing isn’t able to hear easily then you can expect to have difficulty even with your hearing aids in!
- Fit and comfort. Since you are purchasing custom hearing aids, you should expect the fit to be comfortable; ideally you should not even know they are in your ears. There should not be any soreness, bleeding, or rashes associated with your wearing hearing aids. If there is go back to your hearing healthcare provider.
- Sounds: Hearing aids should allow you to: (1) hear soft sounds (e.g. child’s voice, soft speech) that you could not hear without amplification; this is part of the enjoyment of hearing aids; (2) prevent loud sounds from becoming uncomfortably loud for you-but very loud sounds that are uncomfortable to normal hearing people may also be uncomfortable for you.
- Whistling and feedback: It is normal for hearing aids to squeal or whistle when you are inserting them into your ear (if you do not have a volume control to shut it off). If it squeals after the initial insertion, then most likely you have an inadequate fit, and should tell your hearing healthcare provider.
- Your friend’s hearing aid: Do not expect your friend’s hearing aid brand or style to work for you.
- Your family doctor: Do not expect your family doctor to be knowledgeable about hearing loss, brands of hearing aids and whether or not you need them. Data shows that only 13% of physicians screen for hearing loss.
- Expect benefit: Expect your hearing aids to provide benefit to you during the trial period. By benefit, I mean that your ability to understand speech has demonstrably improved in the listening situations important to you (within realistic expectations though). This is what you hoped for, and you should expect benefit. If you do not experience an improvement, then work with your hearing healthcare professional to see if the instrument can be adjusted to meet your specific needs. Never purchase a hearing aid that does not give you sufficient benefit. You must realize though that you will most likely not recieve maximum benefit in only 30 days time frame. It takes your brain time to relearn to listen and understand speech at normal levels again. Generally, your brain isn’t able to handle the maximum sound level that is prescribed for your heairng loss without causing discomfort or headaches for you. The gain recommended for you will slowly be introduced to allow your brain to adjust to the increase in sound around you.
- Satisfaction guarantee: Expect to be satisfied with your hearing aids; expect the quality of your life to improve due to your hearing aids, but do not expect them to be perfect in all situations.
- Adjustment period: Expect a 30-day adjustment period with a money-back guarantee if your hearing aids do not give you benefit. A non refundable portion should be expected for professional services rendered.
- Acclimatization: Give your hearing aids a chance, being sure to follow the instructions of your Audiologist. Most people need a period of adjustment time (called acclimatization) before deriving the maximum benefit from their hearing aids, which can take up to four to six months.
Getting the Most Out of Your Hearing Aids
Meeting Your Needs
Simply stated, satisfaction is having your needs, desires or expectations met. You have very specific needs and the purpose of your Audiologist is to find out what your needs are and to meet them. Thus, during the process of rediscovering your hearing it is important to determine what your needs are, what outcomes you are looking for, and most importantly, how you’ll know when you’ve fulfilled your needs. Many people go into their provider with a vague concept of their need: “I can’t hear,” or “It seems as if people are mumbling more,” or worse yet, “My wife says I don’t listen to her.”
You will have a more fulfilling hearing aid experience if you dig deeper to comprehend the impact hearing loss has had on your life emotionally, behaviorally, mentally and socially. Once you know your problems, you can better identify your expected outcomes. Identification of communication situations that cause you the most difficulty is a critical first step in solving your hearing loss problems. If you can describe difficult listening conditions, your Audiologist can address the problems and develop strategies to help you manage them. If you need more information, ask for it. Some people want highly technical information about hearing aid systems and hearing loss, while others just want a brief overview of hearing aids and their function. Ask for clarification if you need it. Many complex concepts can be explained in an uncomplicated way.
Advanced hearing aid technology can now compensate for most hearing losses, but there are still millions of hearing aid candidates who are not ready to accept this fact. People with hearing loss are in different stages of readiness. At one extreme the individual is in denial about the hearing loss. If either a family member or a professional insists on hearing aids at this point, behavior is unlikely to change and most likely such a person would be dissatisfied if pursuing hearing aids.
Individuals highly motivated to improve their hearing have an infinitely better chance of success with hearing aids. Such motivated people recognize their hearing loss and are open to change. They tend to seek out relevant information related to their hearing loss and the technology needed to alleviate the hearing problem. The most highly motivated hearing aid candidates have a willingness to discuss their feelings about their hearing problem and explore some hearing options that might be available to them. When they are fitted with hearing aids, they eagerly explore their new technology, discuss problems during follow-up visits with their Audiologist, and patiently learn to adapt to their technology.
The most important personality trait that one could possess is a positive attitude, not just toward the process of obtaining hearing aids, but toward life in general. Motivation is a key to success with amplification. This means a willingness to try hearing aids, adapt to new solutions, and keep frustration at a minimum when obstacles arise. If you view your circumstances as beyond your control, there’s a higher probability that you’ll be less successful in adapting to change, including hearing aid use. Hearing aid studies have shown that people who have a positive outlook on life do better with hearing aids. They have a positive self-image and believe they’re in control of their life. My recommendation is take charge and be determined to improve the quality of your life with today’s modern hearing aids!
Choice of Technology
Extensive research across dozens of technologies has shown that customers are more satisfied with digitally programmable technology. Advanced programmable technology allows your Audiologist to adjust the hearing aid to your specific hearing loss characteristics with more precision. The tools for fitting advanced technology hearing aids are also more advanced. For example, some manufacturers store hundreds of “real world” sounds in the computer and allow you to see how your hearing aids will sound in those situations. This feature allows the Audiologist to dynamically adjust the hearing aids based on your personal reaction to sounds. If you can afford advanced technology, do not hesitate to purchase advanced hearing aids.
A second advanced feature to consider is directional hearing aids. They have either two or three microphones in them. Because of their design they are able to reduce annoying background noise and have been proven in both the lab and in the real world to improve your ability to understand speech in more difficult listening situations. If you are an active person, then directional hearing aids will result in enhanced speech intelligibility in more listening situations. Enhanced dynamic feedback cancellation systems, noise reduction systems, and integrated FM and Bluetooth technology are all factors that contribute to improving your communication abilities.
Do Not Purchase Based on Cosmetics
Over the past ten years the hearing aid industry has reduced the size of hearing aids to near invisibility. People can now wear them with greater comfort and we’re finding very small CIC hearing aids have their distinct advantages such as on the telephone and in outdoor situations. Some people are concerned with cosmetics and prefer the least noticeable hearing aids, in the way that you might choose contact lenses instead of framed eyeglasses. The problem is that the smallest hearing aid may not be the most suitable hearing solution for you for a variety of reasons. Your specific hearing loss may require more power than available in CICs, you might not have the manual dexterity to manipulate them, or your ear canals may not allow them to be retained in your ears. Because of hearing loss stigma or embarrassment, many consumers come into hearing healthcare care offices and start off the dialog with, “I would like one of those invisible hearing aids that I saw on TV.” A likely response may be something like: “We carry invisible hearing aids, but I first need to examine your ears, measure your hearing loss, assess your lifestyle and manual dexterity and then discuss how your hearing loss is impacting the quality of your life. You may or may not be a candidate for these hearing aids.” If it is determined that you are not a candidate for CIC hearing aids and you still insist on buying them, the professional Audiologist may not fit you with the product because in essence they would be giving you the wrong prescription for your hearing loss.
Be realistic. Hearing aids will not permit you to hear the flapping of hummingbird wings near a jet engine. Remember that it takes time to get used to hearing aids, especially if you’re a new wearer. Keep in mind that background noise is almost always part of your environment, and adjustment to it is required. In time, you will tune out many of these everyday sounds. It’s important not to become disappointed or frustrated while your brain begins to adjust to a whole new world of sound. If you’re an experienced wearer trying new hearing aids, understand that they might not sound like your old ones. Before you reject them, allow neural hook-ups in the auditory system to adapt to these new sounds. You just might find that you like this new sound better than the old one.
Audiology Dr. Brandy Vowell, your Tulsa Audiologist, can answer all your hearing questions.