Purchasing new hearing aids can be a difficult task. It is a lifestyle change that requires habit-forming motions – for instance, waking up every morning to put the hearing aids on or always remembering to keep batteries on you just in case the batteries die. With practice, hearing aids become apart of everyday life and in turn, enrich the user’s quality of life as well as important listening partners around them.
In terms of hearing loss, the brain may not realize how much it was missing out on until the hearing aids are worn. Once the brain receives appropriate amplification, it may not remember how to differentiate those sounds again. To overcome this change, it is advised to wear the hearing aids as much as possible during the first few weeks to allow that physiological pathway change in the brain to happen. However, always inform your audiologist if the sounds are too uncomfortable/tinny/hollow to the point where it is unbearable.
Visit Various Listening Environments
Listening is not always as simple as quiet, one-on-one situations. We live in a complex busy world and hearing aids have been known to do well in those settings – as long as they are appropriately fit. Visit these complex environments and report back to your audiologist about how they performed so the audiologist can make further fine-tuning adjustments to fit your needs as best as possible. It may help to keep a small journal on hand when visiting restaurants, plays, family gatherings, etc. Write down if the devices were too loud, too soft, or if it was difficult to understand people, but also be sure to write down the environments that were pleasant and easier to listen in than before wearing hearing aids.
Incorporate Communication Strategies
Technology may not be a one-size-fits-all, especially depending on hearing loss severity and length of time the individual has experienced hearing loss. After a while the auditory nerve starts to wither if it is not stimulated, which in turn can affect speech understanding. Hearing aids significantly help compensate for this loss while providing stimulation to the nerve but using two senses (i.e., eyes and ears), knowing how to modify the environment, and learning how to rephrase misunderstood sentences will produce even greater success. Using the eyes to follow along with the speaker’s lip movement can help the brain fill-in missing gaps that were not understood by the ears alone. To modify the environment, reduce the background noise as much as possible. For example, ask to sit in an area of the restaurant that is not as loud, turn down the TV when speaking with friends/family, or try to decrease the distance between you and the speaker since sound intensity fades as distance gets greater. When a message is misunderstood, ask your loved ones to rephrase the message, not just repeat it. Repetition leads to frustration, whereas rephrasing the message gives you greater understanding to fill-in-the-blanks of the intended word/sentence.