Retrain Your Brain!
Getting the most out of your hearing aids
Congratulations on taking the step to better hearing. Good communication effects everything. The National Council on Aging reports that hearing loss negatively impacts quality of life, personal relationships, communication ability and it can cause depression. Although no hearing aid can restore hearing to normal, they have evolved over the years and are quite amazing tiny devices. The following tips will help you get the most out of your new hearing aids.
Wear your hearing aids! Hearing aids cannot help you if they are in your sock drawer. You need to wear them consistently. Hearing aids are made to be worn 12-16 hours a day. Getting use to your new hearing is a process. If your brain is getting an inconsistent signal because you are not wearing the aids on a regular basis, the process of getting use to your hearing aids will be longer and more difficult. It is also important to wear them in all listening situations. Even if you are home alone, and there is no one to talk to, wear your hearing aids! You cannot expect to do well in a challenging noisy situation if you brain is not use to hearing in an easy quiet situation. The exception to this is that you do not want to wear your hearing aids around dangerous noise levels (lawnmower, leaf blower, or snow blower). You cannot reverse hearing loss but you can prevent further damage from noise exposure. When you are using power equipment, take your hearing aids out and use hearing protection.
Things will sound different when you are wearing your hearing aids. This is completely normal, especially in the beginning! Remember that those sounds have always been there, you just haven’t heard them the way you are now. The brain needs time to make sense of what you are hearing. You actually need to retrain your brain to hear with your hearing aids. One of the first things you will notice when you are wearing your hearing aids is that your own voice sounds different. It may sound a bit hollow or louder than what you remember. If you are wearing your hearing aids consistently, your own voice will be one of the first things you adapt to.
Don’t expect to hear everything. Even people with normal hearing need things repeated or may misinterpret what is said from time to time. Hearing aids cannot give you better hearing than people with normal hearing, so have reasonable expectations. It is helpful if you share information about your hearing loss with family and friends. Sometimes family assumes that once you have hearing aids you should hear perfectly … even when you are in the basement and they talking to you from the third floor!
Hearing aids need maintenance. Just like a car, hearing aids need check-ups to be sure they are in good working order and to maintain the best sound quality. Hearing aids should be checked and cleaned every 3-4 months for best performance. An audiological re-evaluation should be done every year to be sure hearing has not changed. If it has, the hearing aids may need to be adjusted or fine tuned to compensate for the change in your hearing. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your hearing healthcare provider. We are here to help!
Dr. Shannon Gibbons