Tips to improve your hearing aid experience
Most likely, we all know someone with hearing loss who, instead of wearing their hearing aids on a daily basis, keeps them in the nightstand drawer. While it’s not uncommon – close to 40 percent of people who are fitted with hearing aids either do not use them at all or do not use them to their full potential – it’s concerning. What helps people wear their hearing aids, anyway?
Researchers from the Cochrane Ear Nose and Throat Disorders Group recently decided to look into that subject. They reviewed 32 studies, all of which measured effects of various interventions designed to help people manage their hearing loss and hearing aids. These studies included more than 2000 participants – mostly veterans over the age of 65 who had mild to moderate hearing loss – and measured short term (12 weeks), medium term (12-52 weeks) and long term effects (one year plus).
Twenty-seven of the studies looked at ways to encourage better management of hearing loss and hearing aids through information, experiences and practice. Five studies looked at changing the way this information was delivered. Although many of the studies reported some improvement in outcomes, the results were inconclusive. The Cochrane Collaboration said the studies were difficult to compare because the outcome measures were different, results were not always fully reported and the largest study contained only one group of users (veterans). The abstract was published online July 14, 2014 in the Cochrane Library.
So, if data from existing studies can’t help us understand what methods encourage users to keep hearing aids in their ears instead of on the shelf, what can we do to improve their use? The answer to that question may lie squarely with the individual who has the hearing loss. In a nutshell there are five ways to make wearing hearing aids an easier process!
Get your hearing tested
If you think you have hearing loss, schedule a hearing test with a qualified hearing healthcare professional. That sounds simplistic, but nothing happens until you take this first step. Many hearing healthcare professionals will tell you one of the most common answers they receive when they ask “why are you here today?” is “because my wife made me come.”
All kidding aside, there are many reasons for wanting to improve your hearing. Not only is hearing health tied to your overall physical health, it’s also important to your psychological well being. Older adults with hearing loss experience higher incidents of Alzheimer’s, dementia, social isolation and anxiety. And then there’s diminished brain function. Simply put, if you don’t seek treatment for your hearing loss, your brain will slowly forget how to hear and those pathways will cease to exist.
Accept your diagnosis
If your hearing healthcare professional says you have hearing loss, accept the diagnosis or get a second opinion. If you do have hearing loss and your hearing healthcare professional determines that hearing aids can help you, participate in the development of your own treatment plan. That includes answering questions about your lifestyle honestly so they can fit you with the hearing instruments that work the best for you. Find a hearing center that will allow you to take the hearing aids home and wear them around for a week or two. In the last ten years, technology for hearing instruments has advanced dramatically. Chances are good there’s a hearing aid designed specifically for you.
Be patient and persistent
Once you receive your hearing aids, work through the adjustment period. That means wearing them for the prescribed amount of time each day, keeping your follow up appointment, and communicating any difficulties you’re having to your hearing healthcare professional. Many people simply stop wearing their hearing aids which doesn't help with adjustments or the hearing loss! Your hearing healthcare professional is available to find the right settings and features when it comes to your hearing device technology.
Have realistic expectations
Hearing aids amplify sounds, they do not correct medical issues in the inner ear. They cannot regenerate the hair cells that are responsible for translating sound into electrical impulses and sending them to the auditory nerve for the brain to interpret. In other words, no matter how sophisticated the hearing aid technology, it will not restore your hearing to normal. However, it will significantly improve your current hearing loss!
Involve your family and friends
Take someone to your first few hearing appointments so there’s a second set of ears hearing what the professional is telling you. Help them understand the best way to communicate with you, which may include getting your attention before they begin speaking, looking directly at you, and using an appropriate volume and rate of speech.
Your willingness to accept your hearing loss and seek treatment for it is the best indicator of how successful you’ll be with your hearing aids. If you want better hearing, be bold and take the first step. Once you have your hearing aids, commit to wearing them daily. Seventy-seven percent of hearing aid users are satisfied with their hearing aids and report better quality of life – including improved relationships with family members.