Adapting to hearing aids is really adapting to two new sensations: the physical sensation of having the aid in your ear canal and your brain’s reaction to processing sound after a long period of diminished hearing. Your initial experience with new hearing aids might be that they are too loud or high pitched as they are now amplifying sound your brain has been straining to hear. On average, people endure hearing loss for years before trying hearing aids, so this didn’t happen overnight.
The good news is the adjustment period is relatively short and can be made easier with attention to a few key steps.
- Understand Your Expectations. You might find your first experience with hearing aids uncomfortable. That’s totally normal and, yes, it’s totally worth it. Your hearing is directly linked to your overall emotional, mental, and physical health, and chances are you’ve been living with hearing loss longer than you realize. You’ll find that with improved hearing, your overall health will improve.
- Ensure a Comfortable Fit. Your hearing specialist will want you to come in for a fitting of your new hearing aids. Clear your schedule and your mind so you can get the most out of your fitting. It is a critical first step in improving your hearing. Pay attention to how the device feels in and around your ears. If the initial sound is uncomfortably loud, your hearing specialist can set the amplification low and gradually increase it over time. Practice removing and replacing the aid in your ear during your fitting.
- Adapt to a New (and Better) Normal. The more you wear your hearing aids, the faster and better your brain will adapt to them. However, you will want to start out slowly in quiet areas like your home and work your way up to more active venues like a restaurant with loud and competing sounds. Go back to your hearing specialist for adjustments if you hear an echo, feedback, or buzzing when using a cell phone.
- Practice Using Your Hearing Aid. When you start using hearing aids and are suddenly able to hear sounds and frequencies you weren’t able to hear before, your brain needs to relearn how to discern those noises and translate them into words. Wearing your hearing aids as much as possible will help, but there are exercises you can do to help as well. (We suggest the noise filtering and sound location exercises found at the bottom of this resource on hearing loss.) Try also listening to books on tape while reading along with the text. This will help your brain associate the sounds with words.
What’s most important is that you don’t give up on wearing your hearing aids. It’s tempting to put them aside, but remember that it’s your overall health that’s at stake–not just whether or not you can hear your friends in noisy restaurants. Like hypertension or diabetes, hearing loss will gradually erode your health if left untreated. With treatment, however, it is a powerful ally in combating serious diseases such as high blood pressure and dementia.
Partner with your hearing specialist while you make the adjustment to hearing aids, and you’ll be one step ahead in maintaining your wellness.