Adjusting to New Hearing Aids
If you’re about to start wearing hearing aids, good for you! Hearing aids are the best thing you can do, once hearing loss becomes an issue, to maintain your quality of life and independence.
While hearing loss is quite common in those over the age of 60, it is also sorely undertreated, especially in its earlier stages. Only about one out of five people who need hearing aids is wearing them, and, on average, people tend to wait about seven years from the time they notice a hearing loss to the time they schedule a hearing test and get a set of hearing aids.
Seven years is a long time to live with hearing loss! During that time, your brain adjusts to the hearing loss you have. You may even undergo a process of brain atrophy, during which the auditory cortex begins to shrink from disuse. If this happens for long enough, even when you get hearing aids eventually, it will take a while to learn to interpret speech again.
Just as our brains adjust to having hearing loss, so must they adjust to wearing hearing aids! However, that’s not to say that the two processes are equal in worth… While adjusting to hearing loss means that your hearing loss sounds “normal” to you, it also involves lifestyle changes, relationship issues, and potential pitfalls like depression, loneliness, social isolation, increased risk of physical injury, and even an earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia.
Adjusting to hearing aids, however, is part of the process of getting your life and health back on track. You’ll be at significantly decreased risk for the outcomes listed above, while also increasing your confidence, optimism, and independence. In short, a great many people who wear hearing aids are able to navigate the world just the same as any person with “normal” hearing, and even better in some cases!
The process of adjusting to hearing aids for the first time is a little bit different for everyone. As you might imagine, those who have left their hearing loss untreated for many years are likely to have a longer adjustment period than those who have recently acquired mild hearing loss. Whatever your specific case may be, here are a few things to keep in mind while you get acquainted with your new hearing aids.
With hearing loss, you missed a lot of sounds that were once normal. It may take some time learning to process these sounds, again. It can be fatiguing at first to hear so many sounds, louder and clearer. It will take some time to get used to hearing other people’s voices in such clarity and detail. Likewise, some sounds that you might wish to ignore will come back. Traffic noise, your feet shuffling on the floor, the fridge buzzing, computers whirring, clocks ticking and birds chirping will all come back. While some of these sounds might be annoying at first, your brain will eventually learn to tune them out, just as it did before you had hearing loss.
Keep Wearing Them!
In the early days of wearing your hearing aids, when it may be fatiguing and many sounds may be annoying, it can be tempting to avoid wearing them. But if you keep at it, eventually you will get used to all these sounds and your hearing aids will be a great benefit to you! Follow your audiologist’s advice about how often you should wear your hearing aids during the adjustment period, and you’ll be on your way to better hearing!
Fitting May Need Adjustment
Fitting, or “programming,” is often an ongoing process for new wearers. It may be useful to start with less amplification than you’ll eventually want, so that the adjustment process can be more comfortable. If you need a tweak in the sound of your hearing aids, your audiologist will be glad to help you throughout the adjustment period.
Talk to Others About Hearing Aids
You may have friends, family members, or coworkers who also wear hearing aids. Talk to them about how their adjustment period went, and the things they liked and didn’t like about it. Others’ experiences can be good to draw on to help you know what to expect.
Get Your Hearing Tested Regularly
Hearing loss tends to progress for a while, then plateau. It may be that you will need additional programming adjustments after a while to keep up with your changing hearing needs. Make sure to take a hearing test regularly to ensure that your hearing aids are doing the best job for you that they can!
If you need to schedule an appointment for a hearing test, either to get your first set of hearing aids or simply because you’re due for a hearing test, call today!