7 tips for getting used to your new hearing aids
Some things will sound funny at first—but give yourself time to adjust
Many people are surprised to learn that it can take awhile to get used to hearing aids, especially if you've never worn them before.
Along with learning how they work, you're also grappling with all the new sounds and stimuli that your brain has forgotten in recent years. Your hearing care professional will be an important partner as you learn to use your hearing aids, and you should not hesitate to reach out to them between appointments if you have any questions.
The biggest change may be your own voice
For some people, the biggest change is the sound of their own voice. You may find that, at first, you voice sounds funny or unfamiliar, and also may sound louder than you'd like. Chewing and swallowing may be especially noticeable. These sensations, which are annoying at first, will dissipate the more you wear your hearing aids. (If they don't, be sure to see your hearing care provider.)
Tips for getting used to hearing aids
1. Wear them at home first
Start by wearing your hearing aids at home or in other quiet listening environments. Focus on having one-on-one conversations. 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. Reading aloud or talking to your pet can also help you get used to your own voice, too.
2. Give yourself homework
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.
3. Take breaks
Wear them a few hours the first day, then a few more hours every day after that. Gradually increase the number of hours you wear them per day, and the situations in which you wear them.
4. Attend follow-up visits
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. Most people visit their audiologist about two weeks after their first fitting to get their devices fine-tuned and possibly adjust the volume.
5. Attend hearing aid care classes
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.
6. Anticipate some frustration, especially with background noise
If you haven't heard well in a few years, hearing aids flood your ears with sounds you didn't notice before, and it can be a bit of sound overload. For example, the humming of the refrigerator—a background noise that most people seldom notice—might seem very loud or unbearable. This is because your brain has forgotten how to sort out background noise and to prioritize certain sounds over others. People adjusting to a new hearing aid have to relearn how to ignore background noise, and it's important for them to be patient and take it slow as their brains adjust.
7. Report any pain
Depending on your hearing needs, you may have custom-fitted earmolds, which means they should fit comfortably within your ears. Audiologists note that hearing aids can cause slight tenderness at first, but that if they cause any amount of ear pain, you should return to the audiologist immediately to fix the problem. Often times, receiver-in-the-ear styles with domes are easier to adjust to because they don't cause a "plugged up" feeling in the ears like earmolds can, and they're gentle on the ear canals.
If your loved one is getting hearing aids
How you can help
There are many things that you can do to help your loved one adjust to his or her new hearing aids. You can be a patient one-on-one conversation partner as your loved one practices listening. Another thing that many people try is you read the newspaper or a book out loud as your loved one with hearing aids reads along silently—this can help him or her re-learn how to recognize particularly difficult sounds.
You can also quiz him or her on sound recognition. Come up with a list of word pairs—like dish and fish or pop and top—that differ by only one consonant sound. Read them aloud so your loved one can watch your lip movements, and then practice with him or her by having that person look away and try to differentiate between the words. Consonant sounds are the most difficult.
You can also help by:
Reasons you may be frustrated with your hearing aids
Unlike eyeglasses, hearing aids take more time to get used to, as your brain relearns to hear sounds it's forgotten about. You also have to acclimate to the sensation of something in your ears, which will only happen once you wear them consistently.
There are a variety of reasons for being dissatisfied with your hearing devices. One of the most common reasons is that you were reluctant to get them in the first place. Appreciating your hearing aids might be as simple as accepting you need them.
If you were on board with the diagnosis of hearing loss in the first place and are still dissatisfied with your devices, don't give up. Martin Case, a hearing instrument specialist and founder of Fountain Hills Hearing Health in Fountain Hills, Ariz., said there are three primary reasons why people aren’t satisfied with their hearing aids:
Here’s the good news: All three of those reasons can be addressed, especially when you’re working with an experienced hearing healthcare professional.
“As we get older, learning new things can be a challenge,” he said. “If patients are willing to have a hearing evaluation, they’re in a good place to get the benefit.” The important thing is to speak up and let your hearing care provider know you're having problems and unhappy with your hearing aids.
You can love your hearing aids
Case identified three important aspects in developing a good relationship with hearing devices:
“Good care from a caring provider makes all the difference,” Case said. “I’ve found if patients have really good technology and follow-up care, it can help the patient help themselves.”
Consider auditory rehabilitation
If you haven’t been hearing well for awhile, you may benefit from an added boost of auditory training or rehabilitation. Don’t fret—just as muscles atrophy when they haven’t been used in awhile, so too does our auditory system. It needs “exercising” to regain what it’s been missing.
Why you should work with a hearing healthcare professional
The degrees of hearing loss are as varied between people as eyeglass prescriptions, which is why everyone should be evaluated by a hearing healthcare professional. Not only can they determine how well you are hearing and help you identify the best hearing aid to treat your specific hearing loss, they also provide follow-up care to make sure your devices fit well and work as prescribed.
If you have hearing aids but aren’t wearing them because they don’t meet your expectations, take them out of your nightstand and have a frank conversation with your hearing healthcare professional.
“Don’t give up. That’s the main thing,” Case said. “There is help and hope for a better life.”
For help in finding a qualified professional in your community, visit our directory of hearing healthcare professionals and hearing centers.