The Truth about Hearing Aids
It’s a fact that hearing devices can help most adults with hearing loss to understand and communicate more effectively. It is also a fact that choosing the right hearing aid can be overwhelming…even difficult.
However, you can reduce the stress often associated with shopping for a hearing device by partnering with an Audiologist you trust and who understands your unique needs. With accurate testing, professional guidance and consistent follow-up care, your satisfaction with your investment in hearing aids will be greatly improved.
You can also increase your satisfaction with the performance of your hearing aids by following these helpful tips:
- Have realistic expectations: Hearing devices work very well when they are fitted and adjusted appropriately, but it is important to understand that they do not provide “perfect” hearing or restore your hearing to normal. Instead, hearing aids provide you with additional information to help you hear and understand more effectively.You should expect that your hearing aids are comfortable to wear, both in the way they feel and in the way you hear sounds. If there is any discomfort at all you should seek counsel from your audiologist immediately.
- Commit to wearing your hearing aids every day: It takes time to adjust to wearing hearing devices and the amount of time required varies from person to person. You may need just a few days to a few weeks or as long as a few months to feel comfortable wearing hearing aids. In general, the greater the hearing loss and the longer amount of time the hearing loss has been present, the more difficult the transition will be to using hearing aids. There is no perfect way to learn how to adjust to hearing devices, but Audiologists are uniquely trained to help you achieve a smooth transition.
- Understand the truth about background noise: Virtually everyone, hearing aid users and non-hearing aid users, complain about background noise at one time or another. There is no way for a hearing device to eliminate the sounds that the wearer does not want to hear. The good news is that there are now hearing aid circuits and features available that help to minimize some unwanted sounds. For example, research reveals that dual microphones effectively reduce background noise for many people with certain types of hearing losses. Your audiologist can help you determine the best technology and microphone options for your hearing loss and communication needs.
- Two hearing aids are better than one: If you have hearing loss in both ears. Wearing hearing devices bilaterally (one in each ear) will improve your ability to:
- Hear in noisy settings
- Localize to sounds in your environment
- Improve your ability to understand speech, especially in the presence of background noise
- Hear soft sounds at lower levels
Buying Hearing Aids
Step #1: The Hearing Aid Evaluation
Your journey to better hearing begins with an accurate audiological evaluation or hearing test. The results of this test, combined with your lifestyle, budget considerations, and personal preferences must be weighed equally when determining the hearing device(s) that will be of most benefit to you.
At the time of the hearing evaluation, a case history will be taken to determine how you and your family perceive your hearing problem. Questions will also be asked about the onset of the hearing loss, presence of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and dizziness. Based on the results of the hearing test and the answers to these questions, your audiologist may make a referral to a medical doctor for an examination and possible treatment. If the testing reveals a sensorineural hearing loss, that is damage to the hearing nerve, a hearing aid may be recommended for one or both ears.
Step #2: Choosing the Hearing Aid that is Right for You
There are literally thousands of hearing aids from which to choose. Your audiologist will use the information that you provided in your case history and the results of your audiological evaluation to help narrow those choices for you, but the final decision on which hearing to purchase is yours.
The main types of hearing devices available today are conventional (analog) and digital.
Conventional analog hearing devices are basically amplifiers that feature manual volume controls and manual fine-tuning. Primarily beneficial for listening in easy, relatively quiet situations, such as in one-on-one conversations and while listening to the television, this technology provides limited flexibility in meeting individual needs.
Digital Hearing Aid Technology accounts for most of the hearing devices sold today. In fact, the basic digital hearing aid costs about the same as a conventional analog hearing aid. The digital hearing device contains a computer chip that amplifies sounds digitally. The quality of the sound produced by the computer chip is excellent.
Digital hearing aids are flexible and can be re-programmed by your audiologist by using a computer equipped with special software and hardware. These technologically advanced hearing devices can respond to soft sounds in one way and to loud sounds in a completely different fashion. Some digital hearing aids even have the capability to reduce some environmental noises such as motors running or dishes clanging.
Step #3: The Hearing Aid Fitting
During the hearing aid fitting, the device is programmed to meet the needs of the wearer. The new wearer is provided with instructions on how to insert the hearing aid in the ear, how to remove it, how to change batteries and how to care for and clean the device.
Step #4: Ensuring Your Satisfaction with your Hearing Aids
Hearing aid studies have shown that people who have a positive attitude adjust to hearing with hearing devices more readily. It also helps to:
- Identify communication settings that are difficult for you. Describe those situations to your audiologist so she can help you develop strategies to manage your difficult listening situations.
- Be patient. Hearing loss typically develops over many years. Becoming re-acquainted with sounds you haven’t heard for a while will take practice and time. It is important not to become disillusioned or frustrated while your brain adjusts to the sounds provided by your hearing devices.