Get the most out of your hearing aids
Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer for Healthy Hearing | Tuesday, January 20th 2015
So you’re tired of not being able to hear well and have decided it’s time to get your hearing evaluated. Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step toward improving your overall health and quality of life. Hopefully, you’ll be one of nearly three million Americans who benefit from wearing hearing aids. Since you’ve just embarked on your journey to better hearing, here are steps you should take in order to make the most from your decision.
Visit a hearing healthcare professional
The first step is choosing a reputable hearing healthcare professional. Not only do they have the proper training and equipment to properly diagnose your hearing loss, they will also work with you to find the type of hearing instrument that fits your physical needs, lifestyle and budget.
Hearing aids can require an adjustment period. Try these tips to ensure you’re happy with your hearing devices!
In addition, good hearing healthcare professionals monitor your progress with frequent checkups. Depending upon how long you waited to address your hearing loss, it’s possible your brain has forgotten how to interpret some of the sounds you used to hear. In that case, your hearing healthcare professional may recommend aural rehabilitation. If medical issues are causing your hearing loss, these hearing healthcare professionals can refer you for treatment.
If you’re not already seeing a hearing healthcare professional, ask your physician for a referral or search the Healthy Hearing directory to find a trusted professional in your community.
Get acquainted with your instruments
Adjusting to your new hearing aids may take a while, depending upon the degree of your hearing loss and whether or not you’ve had hearing aids in the past. Because your hearing aids may make you tired at first, work with your hearing healthcare professional to determine a daily schedule. Gradually, you’ll be able to wear them comfortably all day.
The best way to become familiar with your hearing instruments is to wear them in different listening environments.
- In your home. Take some time to walk from room to room and identify the sounds you hear. Can you hear the grandfather clock ticking in the hallway? How about sounds from your appliances?
- Conversation with another person. It may take some time for your brain to distinguish certain sounds of speech. You can help the process by asking a friend or family member to have a quiet conversation with you. Sit across from them in a well-lit, quiet room so you can see their facial expressions. Talk normally, but pay attention to what you’re hearing. How does it differ from participating in conversations before you had hearing aids?
- Conversation with a group of people often come with a lot of background noise. Many hearing aids come with speech discrimination technology to help you focus on the conversation, but you can enhance your listening capabilities with this simple tip. In your first few group conversations, try facing the person you are talking to with your back to the noise in the room so you can concentrate on the conversation.
- Listening to radio or television. Begin by watching local or national news where the commentators typically speak very clearly.
Try wearing your hearing aids in other listening environments that are part of your lifestyle. If you have problems hearing in any of these situations, talk to your hearing healthcare professional. They will be able to adjust your hearing aids for these environments.
Learn the features
Today’s hearing instruments are a lot like smart phones – they have plenty of features that can make your life easier you if you learn how to use them. Ask your hearing healthcare professional to teach you how to use these features:
- Telecoil – an increasing number of churches, theaters and other public venues have installed loop systems that work with the telecoil in your hearing aid. Most locations that offer this resource are identified with a sign.
- Telephone – You might also want to use the telecoil feature when talking on your landline telephone. Since the telecoil feature also picks up signals from other electronic devices such as computers, televisions and mobile phones, make sure you’re at least six to nine feet away.
- Wireless and mobile phones – Not all mobile phones are hearing aid compatible. If you can’t hear well on your mobile phone, ask your hearing healthcare professional for suggestions on accessories to enhance your listening capabilities.
Know when to troubleshoot
If you have problems with your hearing aids between visits to your hearing healthcare professional, you may be able to fix them yourself:
- If you can’t hear anything, change the battery. If that doesn’t help, gently clean the sound outlet and microphone.
- If you hear a howling or whistling sound, remove and reinsert your hearing aid. If that doesn’t work, get your ear canal checked by a medical professional to see if you have ear wax accumulation.
- If the sound is distorted, check to see if your hearing aid is in telecoil mode. If so, switch it back to microphone mode. If that doesn’t help, check to see if the battery or battery contacts are dirty or corroded.
Cleaning and care
These small electronic devices work tirelessly for you all day long. Here are a few tips to keep them working at their best for years to come.
- Clean daily. Before you put them away for the day, wipe them down with a dry cloth or tissue to wipe away the oil and moisture that’s accumulated during the day.
- Invest in a hearing aid dehumidifier. Moisture can damage the delicate electronic parts of your hearing aid and keep it from working its best. These inexpensive devices gently absorb moisture and increase sound quality.
- Avoid contact with harsh chemicals, such as face creams, body washes and hair sprays. These household products can damage the components of your hearing aid.
Now that you’ve invested in your hearing health, be sure to treat your hearing aids with care and respect. Much like a best friend, they’ll be your partner in getting the most out of life in every listening environment.
In fact, the latest available statistics show that over 10% of the U.S. population reports difficulty hearing! That’s more than 31 million people! And as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, that number promises to increase dramatically!
Are you one of the millions of people that hear, but don’t understand as well as you did? If so, you are not alone. Consider these statistics reported by Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Better Hearing Institute :
- 3 in 10 people over age 60 have hearing loss;
- 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59), or 14.6%, have a hearing problem;
- 1 in 14 Generation Xers (ages 29-40), or 7.4%, already have hearing loss;
- At least 1.4 million children (18 or younger) have hearing problems;
- It is estimated that 3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious to profound hearing loss.
In addition, studies show untreated hearing loss is linked to emotional, physical, mental, psychological and even economic disadvantages! And, to make matters even worse, there are many “myths” about hearing loss that prevent those with hearing loss from doing anything about it.
One of the most common “myths” about hearing loss is that only “old people” suffer from it! In fact, the reverse is true! The majority (65%) of people with hearing loss are younger than 65 and six million people in the U.S. between 18 and 44 suffer from hearing loss (Better Hearing Institute website).
The truth is that there are several causes of hearing loss with “exposure to loud noise” ranking high among the reasons. The primary causes of hearing loss are:
- Exposure to loud noise
- Family history of hearing loss
- Aging process
- Head trauma
Not all hearing loss can be corrected through the use of hearing aids or alternative listening devices. The type of hearing loss determines the specific treatment required.
There are four types of hearing loss:
- Conductive: This could be caused by something as simple as earwax buildup!
- Sensorineural: This is caused when tiny hairs in the cochlea are missing or damaged.
- Mixed: This is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
- Central: Strokes and central nerve diseases are often the cause of this type of hearing loss.
4 Myths About Hearing Loss
Truth: Actually 40% of the 48 million Americans with hearing loss are younger than age 60. Hearing loss does progress with age but almost 30% of those between the ages of 50 and 59 suffer from some degree of hearing loss.
Truth: Noise is one contributing factor to hearing loss. Long exposure to noise, aging, genetics, medication, poor nutrition and diabetes all contribute to hearing loss. All
of the above destroy the hair cells in the inner ear which send auditory signals to the brain. Once the hair cells are damaged, they cannot be repaired. Researchers are working on regenerating the hair cells but for now, the damage is irreversible.
Truth: Speech being loud enough to be audible is a crucial part of our hearing experience but more importantly, the signal being sent to the brain needs to be as clear as possible. The ear is essentially the conduit to the brain. If you’ve ever listened to a damaged microphone, the volume may be ok but the clarity is missing. Many hearing losses are like that: the ear hears the sound but then as it travels to the brain, sounds become distorted. Today’s hearing aids work to provide a speech signal that is audible at the same time they reduce background sounds and give as clear a speech sound as possible. Many hearing aids today also work using bluetooth technology to connect you to your cell phone and television.
Truth: The longer you wait, the harder it will be to treat the hearing loss. The longer the brain is not stimulated, the harder it becomes to accurately interpret the world around you. That’s why people with hearing loss sometimes find the adjustment to hearing aids harder than they anticipated. Fortunately, the brain is very flexible and even into very old age, the brain is able to “reprogram” itself when properly stimulated. This means that you can “teach” your brain to hear again by wearing hearing aids regularly.