If hearing aids are recommended after your hearing is tested, your hearing care professional will work with you to find the right hearing aids for you. That selection process, called a hearing aid fitting, starts with an assessment of your needs and ends with follow-up visits after the customized programming of your devices.
Assessment of needs
Your hearing care professional will begin the selection process by conducting an in-depth consultation with you to learn more about your lifestyle, your expectations, your personal preferences and your thoughts on any previous experiences with hearing aids. Your hearing test results, along with this information, will help the professional pull together some options for you to review.
Hearing test results
The degree of your hearing loss will determine which styles may work best for you, with smaller models generally suited for milder hearing loss. Larger models of hearing aids will work for any degree of hearing loss, including severe or profound. The shape of your hearing loss may also determine the best model for you. For example, a mini-BTE with an open fit works very well for gently sloping losses that mainly affect the higher frequencies, while a BTE with an earmold is a good option for a steeply sloping loss. The level of technology that you need can also be dictated by the degree and shape of your hearing loss. If your hearing loss is worse in the mid-frequencies than it is in the lower and higher frequencies, then you may need some advanced hearing aid features to best accommodate your hearing loss.
When considering your hearing aid, it is important for the professional to get a picture of the lifestyle you desire. You may have gradually avoided certain environments and social situations as your hearing loss worsened. Now is the time to think about what you’d like to be able to do with the help of your new hearing aids! For example, if you spend your evenings talking on to family and friends on the phone, you’ll want a hearing aid that works well with your phone.
Generally, more advanced digital hearing aids are designed for people who encounter many different listening situations with varying degrees of background noise. For sedentary people who are mostly at home with little background noise, basic models may be recommended.
Finally, it’s important to consider any prior hearing aid experience when selecting a new hearing aid. Did you love your last set of hearing aids? Why? Did you like the style, the sound quality or something else? What did you have difficulty hearing with your old hearing aids? What new features would you like to try? This type of insight will help your hearing professional determine what you will need in your new hearing instruments to maintain—or improve—your level of satisfaction.
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Hearing aid selection
After you’ve discussed your needs with your hearing care professional, you will generally be presented with a few recommended options at different price points. In some cases, you might have the opportunity to wear a demonstration hearing aid for a few hours or a few days to try out. Once you’ve made your decision, the hearing care professional will order your selection and schedule you to come back at a later date for the initial hearing aid programming. If you’ve decided on a custom-fit ITE style or a BTE with earmold style, your hearing care professional will take an impression of your ear canal to send in with the order.
Initial hearing aid programming
When your hearing aid arrives at the hearing center, the hearing care professional will hook it up to the computer and program it according to your hearing loss and preferences. Some professionals choose to do the programming before you arrive and some prefer to do it while you’re there.
Once the hearing aids are out of the box and in your ears, you’ll start hearing lots of things you haven’t heard for years. In fact, you might feel like everything is too loud at first. It will take time for your brain to relearn which sounds to ignore, like the sound of your own footsteps or the rustle of your clothing. But don’t worry—your hearing care professional will do some tests to make sure that the hearing aid is set appropriately for your hearing loss. You will also be counseled on how to change the battery, use any features, clean and take care of your hearing aid.
Adjusting to your hearing aids
Adjusting to hearing aids takes time. Some people only need a day or two but most people need a few weeks to a few months to adjust to using hearing aids. The important thing to remember is to wear them, even if just for a few hours the first day, an hour longer the following day, and so on until you are wearing hearing aids all day. Start by wearing them at home or in other quiet listening environments and focus on having one-on-one conversations. As you gradually increase the number of places where you use your hearing aids, don't be discouraged by background noise. Let your friends and family know you’re using your new hearing aids so they can help you stay committed to better hearing as you wear your aids in more challenging environments. For extra practice with your hearing aids, try to locate the sources of all the sounds in your environment, or listen to audio books or talk radio while you're home alone.
During this time of adjustment, you’ll want to see your hearing care professional for as many follow-up visits as you need to fine-tune the sounds you’re hearing, adjust the fit in your ear and talk about the situations that are most challenging for you. If your hearing care professional offers orientation classes for new hearing aid wearers, be sure to sign up. These classes are very helpful and lead to greater satisfaction with hearing aid use.
Hearing aids work extremely well when fitted and adjusted properly. They should be comfortable to wear and provide good sound quality. It is important to remember that hearing aids do not restore normal hearing and are not as good as normal hearing. At first, you will be aware of hearing aids in your ears and your voice will sound "funny." The quicker you ramp up to wearing them all day, like you would wear a pair of eyeglasses, the faster your brain will re-program itself to ignore the sounds that are meaningless to you. Before you know it, you’ll only be able to hear the refrigerator humming if you concentrate and listen for it!
Find a hearing healthcare professional near you to guide you through the process.