What is the best way to adapt to wearing hearing aids? Good question. Let’s go right back to the beginning.
Far too often, people have unrealistic expectations as they anticipate hearing again with their new hearing aids.
For many people, the scenario goes something like this. The big day arrives. You are excited. You should be. Today you are going to hear again. Today you will receive brand new hearing aids. You leave the building and step out into the street. Suddenly a horrible cacophony of sounds assaults your ears. You don’t ever remember traffic being this noisy. You can’t stand the awful racket. Quickly you reach up and pull your hearing aids out of your ears, and your dream of hearing again is shattered.
Don’t Leave Me in Your Drawer
If this has been your experience, you are certainly not alone. To the above, add the enormous numbers of hard of hearing people who only take their hearing aids out for certain special occasions. This is a tragedy.
So what should people be doing so that they will become successful users of hearing aids? Here are some answers.
Have Realistic Expectations of What Your Hearing Aids Will Do for You
Before you are even fitted for new hearing aids, you need to have realistic expectations of what hearing aids will and will not do for you.
1. Hearing Aids Will Not Give You Normal Hearing
Hearing aids are aids to better hearing. They are not cures for hearing loss. Thus, if you expect normal hearing, you will be sadly disappointed. However, if you expect to hear better, you will be pleased with your new hearing aids — particularly in quiet situations. If you set your expectations too high, you may be so disillusioned that you may toss your hearing aids in the drawer and forget about them.
For example, one elderly lady was fitted with hearing aids that allowed her to hear and understand about 90% of what people were saying. After 4 weeks, she stopped wearing them. Why? Because she was upset that she was still missing 10%. She consigned herself to a life of frustration and silence, because she focused on the 10% she missed rather than on the whopping 90% she now could hear.
2. It Takes Time to Adjust to Wearing Hearing Aids
It comes as a shock to many people that they need to adjust to wearing hearing aids. They think that adjusting to wearing new hearing aids should be like puttng on new glasses, instant clear sight. The truth is, you need to give your brain time to relearn how to hear and process all the new sounds it is now hearing, especially if your hearing loss was gradual and you gradually lost certain sounds.
Now, when you put on hearing aids, all of a sudden these sounds blast your ears and you are overwhelmed. It takes time for you to get reacquainted with the sounds you haven’t heard well for decades. This does not happen in a day or even a week.
3. Everything Is Too Loud Now
One of the biggest shocks people experience when wearing new hearing aids is how loud everyday sounds now seem. The toilet flushing or clinking cutlery etc.
Initially, you may find you cannot stand rustling papers, running water and other everyday sounds. However, with time, your brain will learn to turn down its internal volume control so these sounds become bearable. This is another reason you need to persevere.
Unfortunately, many people give up before this happens. If they had kept using their hearing aids a little longer, they would have succeeded.
4. Hearing Aids Cannot Fix Fuzzy or Distorted Hearing
When you lose your hearing, you not only hear sounds softer, but also speech now sounds fuzzy or distorted. This is because typically you lose most of your hearing in the high frequencies. It is these higher frequencies that give speech much of its intelligence. If your ears can no longer hear these frequencies no matter how much these sounds are amplified, hearing aids will not bring clarity to your fuzzy hearing world.
However, if you still have some high frequency hearing, digital aids can be adjusted to specifically amplify these higher frequencies much more than the lower frequencies you typically hear reasonably well. This will help you hear clearer speech once again. It will not be perfect — so don’t expect that — but it will be better.
5. Hearing Aids are not a ‘silver bullet’ solution to noisy background situations
Hearing aids work best in quiet situations. Although modern digital hearing aids that have been programmed to your hearing loss will have noise reduction technology you may still have difficulty in a noisy restaurant, bar or similar.
It is just the way sound works and bounces off hard surfaces. This is true of all brands and models no matter what the purchase price.
6. You May Not be Ready Psychologically
Wearing hearing aids before you are ready psychologically is a sure way to fail. You first have to grieve for your hearing loss (i.e. work through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression before reaching the acceptance stage). It is only when you reach the acceptance stage that you are finally ready to do all you can to help yourself hear better — which includes wearing hearing aids.
If you are still in the denial or depression stages, you will not give hearing aids a fair attempt before relegating them to the drawer.
Successfully Adapting to Wearing Hearing Aids
If you have followed the suggestions outlined above, you will have realised that hearing aids won’t be perfect, but you’ll hear much better than you do now. What you need to do now is learn how to effectively adjust to wearing your new hearing aids so you won’t rip them out of your ears in disgust and throw them in a drawer.
The key to success is to make haste slowly.
Sit down and relax in a quiet place in your home, I suggest the bathroom in front of a mirror. Practice putting your hearing aids in your ears and changing programs. Talk to yourself and listen to the sounds around you. Do you hear the hum of the refrigerator? the creaking of your house? the sounds of a car driving by outside? the rustle of your clothes? Get used to them for they will again be a part of your life.
Learn to feel comfortable with your hearing aids. It’s normal that your ears will feel full, (and probably hot and sweaty too) like you have something stuffed in them — because you do. Wearing hearing aids may feel uncomfortable to some degree and your ear may feel itchy or sore.
On the first day, wear your hearing aids for only one hour. The second day: two hours, the third day: three hours. After that, add another hour a day until you are comfortable wearing them all the time. If this is too fast for you, just increase the time by a smaller amount, say 30 minutes a day.
To begin with, do not wear your hearing aids in noisy places. You need to be comfortable in quiet places first. Treat yourself to easy listening situations during your first few weeks of adjusting to wearing your hearing aids. Try not to listen to too much too soon.
If your hearing aids begin to bother you, take them out and give yourself a rest. Put them on again later. You need to get used to wearing them and to hearing sounds again.
Read aloud to yourself. You may be horrified how loud or different your voice sounds. This is normal. Get used to it. This is how you really sound. Slowly you will come to like your “new” voice. The sound of your phone ringing or the sudden ding-dong of your door bell may startle you. You may jump when doors slam, dogs bark or people cough. This too, is normal.
When you are comfortable hearing your own voice, talk to one other person in a quiet place. When you are ready, wear your hearing aids outside and listen to the sounds around you. Try to identify birds singing, traffic sounds, rustling leaves, the sounds of your shoes scrunching on the sidewalk. Begin on relatively quiet streets and slowly build up to busy streets.
Finally, but only after you are comfortable wearing your hearing aids in all other situations, you are ready to tackle difficult and noisy listening situations. In crowds and at parties, talk to one person at a time. Don’t try to follow everyone at once. If the noise gets to you after a while, seek a quiet place.
In restaurants, start with quiet, well-lit ones. Gradually work up to noisier restaurants as you feel comfortable.
Adjust slowly and consistently to wearing your new hearing aids. Remember, it takes a while for your brain to adjust to the new sounds it is now hearing.
How well and how fast you adapt to your new electronic ears depends on several factors. These include:
- How bad your hearing loss is
- The type of loss you have
- How long you have had the loss
- Whether it happened gradually over many years or whether it was sudden
- How well your ears can discriminate different sounds.
Adapting to your new hearing aids may take a week or a month or a year — everyone is different. The important thing is to keep at it. Don’t compare your progress with others. If you only have a mild loss, you may adapt to your new aids the first day — it may be love at first sound. If your hearing loss is severe you likely will take much longer to adapt. The same is true if you have had a hearing loss for many years before doing anything about it.
However, when you finally adapt to wearing your hearing aids, something surprising happens. The day will come when you will actually feel undressed unless you are wearing your hearing aids. You realise just how much your hearing aids help you successfully cope in the hearing world.