What to Expect from Hearing Aids
When considering the purchase of hearing aids, it is important to establish reasonable expectations from the use of these highly sophisticated devices. The successful use of hearing aids is not merely a simple act of going to a clinic and purchasing a product. Rather, it is a complex process that involves over time with the guidance and support from your audiologist.
- Expect others to notice your hearing loss before you do. A hearing loss usually develops very gradually and people are often unaware that their hearing has changed.
- Expect your audiologist to be knowledgeable, courteous, and accommodating. Your audiologist will take a thorough case history. He/ she is searching for information about your hearing loss, its probable cause, and whether there is a family pattern of hearing loss. It is important to identify any medical condition associated with your hearing loss so that an appropriate medical referral can be arranged.
- Expect differing opinions. If you choose to seek the advice of two or more audiologists, you may get differing opinions about the “best aid” for you. Everyone in the hearing aid industry acknowledges the fact that there is not a single “best” hearing aid.
- Expect that you may need two hearing aids. There are many benefits to binaural (two ear) hearing, including being better able to understand speech in noise, and being better able to localize sound.
- Expect the hearing aids to cost more than you think they should.
- Expect a period of adjustment. Once you get your new hearing aids, expect an adjustment period of several days to many weeks to get used to the daily care and maintenance of the hearing aids. You’ll need time to learn how to insert and remove the hearing aids from your ears, to adjust the volume control, to clean them, to open and close the battery door, to change the battery, and to get accustomed to placing the hearing aids in a dry-aid kit for the times when they are not in your ears. There is a lot to learn, and people learn at different speeds.
- Expect your voice to sound different. Your voice will sound strange to you at first – like being in a barrel, as well as quite a lot louder. You will need to adapt to the altered sound of your own voice.
- Expect a good, comfortable fit. Initially, it will take a while to get used to having the hearing aids in your ears. You may experience a little soreness or irritation at first, but after a few days or a week or so, you should be able to wear the aids for most of the day without any pain or discomfort. Your hearing aids are custom fitted to the exact shape of your ears. However, the many steps involved in the manufacturing process can affect the fit of the aids. If your aids are not comfortable, you should not wear them. The skin in the ear is very sensitive and will swell up if a pressure point develops. Report all discomfort or irritations to your audiologist.
- Expect follow-up appointments. Digital signal processing hearing aids are highly sophisticated instruments with many features. The greatest advantage of this technology is the flexibility in programming the sound quality, as well as many other electro-acoustic characteristics of your hearing aids. This means that the hearing aids can be fine-tuned to suit your specific listening requirements.
- Expect to be able to hear well, but not perfectly, in quiet one-to-one situations and most small group settings. When sound is comfortably loud, it will be easier for you to follow a conversation, and the effort and stress of straining to hear rapidly diminishes. Listening and communicating in social situations become pleasurable again. You should be able to hear most of what is said without having to watch a person’s lips all the time.
- Expect to have difficulty hearing in noisy situations. You may say that you can hear adequately in quiet and that the noisy situations are the ones in which you need the most help. Background noise is a nuisance for everyone, even normal hearing individuals. However, people with a high frequency hearing loss will have greater difficulty focusing on a voice when noise is present than people with normal hearing do.
- Expect that your hearing aids may squeal (also called “whistle,” or “acoustic feedback”) under rare circumstances. Acoustic feedback occurs when the amplified sound coming from the hearing aid can leak out of the ear around the edge of the hearing aid and enter the microphone.
- Expect repairs. Hearing aids are incredibly sophisticated devices being inserted in the ear canal where moisture and cerumen (ear wax) are present. Because of their size, hearing aids are easily dropped. Microscopic solder joints that connect the tiny wires of the microphone and receiver to the computer chip in the hearing aid can be jarred loose. Handling your hearing aid carefully, as well as establishing a good preventive maintenance routine can significantly reduce the number of repairs needed. You will be given tools to clean and absorb moisture from your hearing aid.
- Expect to buy batteries. Hearing aid batteries will probably last a week or two in the hearing aid. Battery life varies depending on the hearing aid circuit, the quality and type of battery, environmental conditions (temperature, humidity etc.).
- Expect to purchase new hearing aids every 5 years. This may come as a surprise, particularly if you have just purchased a set of digital hearing aids. However, hearing aid technology changes rapidly, just like computers, and improvements in technology may benefit you greatly. Some people are able to keep the same pair of hearing aids for 10 to 12 years, particularly if their hearing loss remains stable over time and if they do a great job with hearing aid maintenance, but the average life expectancy is about five years.
- Expect Competent Dispensing. Hearing aid technology has become increasingly sophisticated, so that the skills required by the clinician fitting and fine tuning hearing aids have substantially increased. There is no formal regulation of the minimum level of training and experience required by hearing aid dispensers to protect the consumer. University trained audiologists have the diverse range of skills and training to be able to adequately apply this technology.
- Most importantly, expect to enjoy the sounds of life again! Your hearing aids are a key ingredient to staying active and improving the quality of your life. You will once again enjoy social events, leisure activities, and conversations with your family, friends, and co-workers, as well as complete strangers! The effort and stress of straining to hear will become past history, and you will feel much more relaxed as a result. Your hearing aids will also help you hear warning sounds to keep you safe and well.