Wearing your hearing aid successfully
Hearing aids are not like glasses – they take a bit more getting used to. Practice putting in your hearing aid. You need to practice putting on your hearing aids and wearing them consistently throughout the day. There’s a lot to take in at the fitting appointment, when you first get your hearing aid. If you take away nothing else, know how to insert your hearing aid and feel confident putting it in your ear. Make sure you can identify your left hearing aid from the right one. Practice at home on your own, maybe in front of mirror (this doesn’t work for everyone). Then practice putting it on in different situations and with the opposite hand. You want to be so good at putting in your hearing aid, you could do it in your sleep. If you’re having trouble inserting your hearing again, go back to your Hearing Healthcare Professional and ask for assistance. Don’t leave until you’ve got it down pat!
Increase your daily wear-time
Wear your hearing aid, and increase your wear-time every day. This is the most important factor in getting used to your hearing aid. Your aim should be to wear your hearing aid all day, from the moment you wake up, until you go to bed at night (remembering to take it off for showering). If you aren’t wearing it, you can’t stimulate your brain with all those long-missed sounds. Training your brain is part of the journey to hear better again. While you’re doing all this practice, and increasing the amount of time you have your hearing aids in, you are also building brain muscle and auditory memory.
Keep a diary of how long you’re wearing your hearing aid each day. The first day you should aim to wear it for a couple of hours around the house. Wear it while watching TV, having a conversation with your partner and sitting outside with a cuppa and listening to the birds. You may not have heard them for a while so enjoy having birdsong back in your life. If all this is good, and your hearing aids feel comfortable in your ears, increase your wear time each day. Make note of sounds you like/dislike or anything that feels uncomfortable of unnatural. These are the points you need to discuss with your HHP at your follow-up appointment. Keep at it – as you acclimatise to your hearing aids, your brain will start remembering sounds. It won’t be long until you wonder why you left it so long to get yourself back into the land of the hearing.
Noise and your hearing aids
While you’re acclimatising to your hearing aids, you’re going to want to build up to noisy situations gradually. There’s a whole lot of sound out there in the world and if you put your brand new hearing aids on, and then walk out into the traffic – well, you might regret it. Walk around your house getting used to all the sounds – yes, the toilet does flush that loudly – you just haven’t heard it for a while! So if the toilet seems loud, it’s a good idea to build up to noisy cafes and shopping centres gradually.
Even with normal hearing, listening in noisy environments isn’t easy. There’s so many competing signals for your auditory system to manage and make sense of. Once your hearing levels are reduced, it adds a whole other level of complexity for our ears to pick up the sounds and our brain to interpret the meaning. When you have damage to your inner ear hearing cells, the outer hair (hearing) cells are usually more disrupted. These outer hair cells are important for good hearing in background noise, so if these are impaired, the ability to hear successfully in noisy situations is compromised. It’s also worthwhile to consider that people generally lose more high frequencies sounds. A number of high frequency speech sounds - such as: ‘s’, ‘th’ and ‘f’ - need a lot of energy to produce. These sounds often occur at the beginnings and ends of words and due to their lack of power, get swallowed up by the background noise. This means you only hear part of the word. Background noise is generally low frequency, which means you’ll hear background noise better than the speech sounds so having conversation in background noise is quite challenging. Your brain has to work overtime to sort out the noise from the nuances of speech.
Hearing aids are a way to assist your brain in coping with all this background noise, but it takes time and practice. Research has shown that over time, with hearing aids, the brain can relearn how to process speech in noise. Yes, you can train your brain back to hearing well in simple and complex environments. The technological features you have in your hearing aids will assist with this. Remember the higher the technology level, the more speech processing and noise suppression features you’ll have. Give your brain the best chance to process sounds and give you the clarity and understanding to hear well in all environments. Once you’re comfortable, get adventurous and really test out your hearing aids. Remember to make notes of any areas you’re not happy.