Most of us know someone who is not happy with their hearing aids or has their hearing aids kept safety in their bedside drawer never to see the light of day again. It is something we regularly hear, but have we ever stopped to ask why? Rather than simply believing that all hearing aids don’t work… why not dig a little deeper. Why do we assume that just because they don’t work for one person, they won’t work for us?
There are many reasons a person may choose to stop wearing their hearing aid. A consumer group study performed in 2000 reported that the top 3 reasons people chose not to wear their hearing aid was : poor benefit, background noise and physical features such as comfort and fit (see Kochkin,2000 for review). Sadly, misconceptions and expectations are often the root cause of these issue and these can act as a barrier to successful hearing aid use.
Hearing aids are useful devices that can provide substantial benefit to people’s lives by giving them back opportunities to engage and interact in everyday situations where they may be at a disadvantage. They allow people to enjoy TV again, to interact with their family at social gatherings or to function well at work with less stress and fatigue.
Unfortunately however one of the biggest pitfalls to dis-satisfaction with hearing aids is expectations. Often the expectations placed on hearing aids are too high. We think they are going to solve all our communication issues and work seamlessly. When this does not happen and hearing aids fall short, or we are not given a solution to the problem, people lose faith in their devices and tend to not persevere.
Read on to educate yourself on 7 things you may not know about modern hearing aids.
1. Hearing aids will not restore your hearing back to “normal” and background noise is typically difficult.
When considering a hearing aid, it is important to remember that no hearing aid will restore you hearing 100%. Hearing aids are designed to aid in communication and whilst there are many inbuilt processes attempting to mimic natural hearing, this is still a man-made device that has limitations.
Hearing aids are very good in some situations and limited in others. Whilst to some degree, this performance is dependent on the level of technology you chose, there are limitations to every hearing aid. Despite what may be advertised, there will always be some background noise that may interfere with conversation and it is important to be realistic.
It is important to evaluate the device you have chosen and ensure you have chosen the device best suited to your needs.
2. Learning to wear a hearing aid requires a period of acclimatisation.
Hearing aids are not an instant fix solution and do take time to get used to. In many cases, a hearing loss has been present for a long time and as a result the brain needs time to adjust to the new sounds it no longer recognises. The longer the hearing loss has been present, the harder it can be in some cases to achieve optimal results. When you have lived with a hearing loss for a long time, you may think the sound is “tinny” or strange when listening through the hearing aid. This is typically because you are used to hearing with limited sound quality. It is more about how long the hearing loss has been present and less about the quality of the hearing aid itself. The brain then has to relearn sounds it has been deprived of.
It can take a few weeks to a few months before your brain is able to accept all the sounds it is hearing anew. This can often be overwhelming and it is at this point that many people give up. However, if you persevere initially, even though it might be difficult, the sounds in your environment should get easier to handle and your brain will begin learning to filter out unnecessary noises.
3. You need to wear your hearing aid in order for it to work.
Clients always ask, ‘how long do I have to wear my hearing aids? Ideally, the more you wear it initially the more benefit you get from the hearing aid. Whilst this is not for everyone and some clients prefer to only wear the hearing aid for specific situations such as watching TV, particularly in the initial stages you want to ensure you give yourself the best chance at adapting to the new sounds.
Bob Martin from hearinghealth.org summarised it well when he wrote..
“Like those who are trying to develop their body or their brain, hard-of-hearing people needs to “exercise” the specific portion of their brain (auditory cortex and long- and short-term memory areas) that they want to use. If listening in noise is desired, then listening-in-noise exercise must be done regularly.”
Hearing aids require perseverance and commitment. The more you wear a hearing aid, the more benefit you will get from it. This is because the brain needs time to learn to once again interpret all the sounds in your environment through the hearing aid. If you only wear the hearing aid at dinner once a week, it is a new experience for the brain every time it hears through the hearing aid and it is not enough time to adjust. What we are trying to do is aid the brain in recognising the signals so it can filter out unnecessary sounds. For example, we may not have been hearing the car indicator before hearing aids so initially when we hear it again, the sound is in our consciousness and it is hard to ignore, but once the brain becomes used to the sound and recognises it, we can usually tune it out of consciousness. Then we hear the sound, but it no longer interferes.
4. Hearing aids can be adjusted and parts can be changed.
Over time, changes in hearing, changes in lifestyle or changes in communication needs may require an adjustment to your hearing aids and this can all be done in the audiology office without having to send your hearing aid away. Whilst this refers to sound levels and sound quality, the same can be applied to the physical characteristics of the hearing aid. Over time, our ears may change shape and we may find the hearing aid growing uncomfortable or require a new fitted ear. It is important not to just put up with any difficulties, but consult your audiologist for any possible solutions to the problem. Do not assume there is nothing that can be done.
The first time you leave the audiology office, the sound may not be perfect and in many cases it is not. Often we cannot know your preferences until we let you try it out in your own environment. That is why we always book you a follow up appointment initially so you can come back and tell us what worked and what didn’t and we can adjust accordingly. The important thing to remember is that the more you tell us about the situation or environment you felt hearing could be improved, the more we can do to manipulate and improve the hearing aid to your preference.
5. Daily management of a hearing aid is very simple.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to constantly adjust the volume, the program or the hearing aid itself every time you go to a new place and they do not require a lot of work. Most hearing aids are automatic. Whilst having the ability to change the program or the volume is useful, we hope you don’t have to use it! We want to make hearing as simple as possible. Day to day management of a hearing aid is usually as simple as putting the hearing aid on and ensuring the batteries are still working.
6. Hearing aid technology is rapidly improving.
Hearing aids are not as big and bulky as they used to be. Most hearing aids are designed to be as discrete as possible and are virtually invisible. There are rechargeable and disposable battery options for clumsy fingers, and products to make life easier and simpler. Accessories and mobile phone apps are available to make things as seamless as possible and cope with the changing demands of compatible technology. These include things like hands-free devices to use your hearing aids for the phone, or with the TV.
7. Free trial really does mean FREE TRIAL.
When it comes to hearing aids we understand that first of all, you don’t want to commit to
large sums of money without first experiencing the product and second of all, you don’t really know what to expect. We want you to make an informed decision and that’s why we let you try a hearing aid/s for 30 days. If you don’t like them, you are under no obligation to buy them.
This trial period also means that you need to ensure you are completely satisfied with the device before the trial period ends if you do decide to go ahead with the purchase. Once a purchase has been made, you are unable to swap or upgrade the device should you change your mind.
For some people, the first time they trial a hearing they may decide they are not yet ready for a hearing aid but at least they know what to expect for the future and are equipped with information to help them in the future.
It is however, important to try a hearing aid that is suitable for you. Before choosing which hearing aid to try it is important to understand the range of prices and the many different devices on the market.
The hearing services program (HSP) is available for pensioners in order to access government subsidised devices. If you are a pensioner, you may be entitled to concessions under the government through the hearing services program. For more information on your entitlements see http://www.hearingservices.gov.au. Alternatively, for clients interested in purchasing a hearing aid privately it is always worthwhile checking any entitlements you have with your health fund.
Our hearing clinic is located at Bella Vista, in Sydney's Norwest region. You can contact us on 1300 344 325 or firstname.lastname@example.org (or contact us online here).
Emma Beedell Audiologist, BSpHSc, MClinAud, MAudA(CCP)
Emma Graduated from Macquarie University with a Bachelor of Speech and Hearing sciences and a Master of Clinical Audiology. Emma has recently moved back home after working in Canberra for a few years. She enjoys working with clients of all ages but loves working with children.
Kochkin, S.MarkeTrak V: "Why my hearing aids are in the drawer": The consumers’ perspective. Retrieved from http://users.clas.ufl.edu/mcolburn/Web-links/Nursing%20Lecture/ITD%20HA.PDF
Martin, Bob (2014). How many hours a day should I wear my hearing aids. Retrieved from https://hearinghealthmatters.org/hearinprivatepractice/2014/many-hours-day-wear-hearing-aids/ on 2/10/18.