If you’re one of the estimated 26 million Americans who suffers from hearing loss and have decided to purchase hearing aids, congratulations. Gradually losing your hearing is a normal part of the aging process and, in most cases, these devices can greatly improve your ability to communicate. But nothing is perfect. Here are some things you might experience when wearing hearing aids.
An adjustment period. If you waited for a few years before having your hearing evaluated, it’s possible there are certain sounds you haven’t heard for awhile. Hearing aids amplify sound but they won’t correct your hearing like your eyeglasses correct your sight so you’ll likely hear sounds differently than you did before. Hearing health professionals say it will take your brain between 30 to 90 days to adjust to the way your ears hear with assistance. Your audiologist may recommend wearing your new hearing aids for a few hours at a time in the beginning and gradually work up to wearing them all day. It’s estimated one in every eight hearing aids is never used because of unrealistic expectations. Resolve to be patient during the first three months and chances are you’ll be satisfied with the improvement in your hearing and communication skills.
Temporary discomfort. Like eyeglasses or new shoes, hearing aids may feel unfamiliar at first. Make sure you’re comfortable with the fit before you leave the hearing center and contact your audiologist for an adjustment if the situation changes. Your new hearing aid may be uncomfortable temporarily, but it should never be painful to wear it.
Too much noise. The amplification your hearing aids provide may seem overwhelming initially. Even your own voice may sound loud and unnatural. Hearing health professionals recommend you begin using hearing aids slowly in a quiet environment and work up to wearing them in noisy environments gradually. Eventually your brain will learn to tolerate the amplified sound your hearing aids produce.
One of the most common complaint from new hearing aid users concerns understanding speech in noisy environments. Some of the newer hearing aids have directional capabilities, which focus in on the sounds you’re facing while minimizing background noises; however, not even the most technologically advanced hearing aids can completely separate sound from speech. Remember, even those with normal hearing sometimes have difficulty when trying to carry on a conversation in a noisy environment.
Feedback. Improperly fitting hearing aids and those clogged with earwax may emit feedback -- that annoying whistling sound that’s often associated with microphones and speakers at the auditorium or concert hall. Feedback most often occurs when a hearing aid doesn’t fit tightly enough and sound “leaks” out of the ear or when the device is clogged with earwax. (If gentle cleansing with a washcloth doesn’t keep the earwax from accumulating in your ears, consult your physician.) Newer hearing aid technology contains feedback suppression circuits to help with this problem. Ask your audiologist for more information on feedback canceling hearing aid technology.
Static. If your hearing aid produces static, take it in for a check up. When a hearing aid produces this crackling sound, it usually means it needs service. It could be as simple as a low battery or build up of moisture or dirt. If you still hear static after the battery is changed and your hearing center has cleaned your hearing aid, consult your hearing aid center. There may be a problem with the amplifier.
Of the 26 million Americans with hearing loss, less than 4 million wear hearing aids. The majority of those that do say they enjoy a fuller life and are less anxious or depressed than those who don’t. Before you purchase hearing aids, talk to your audiologist about your lifestyle and hearing expectations. They will work with you to determine what type of hearing aid you need and what you can expect when you wear them.