Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide

Hearing Success
or How to Love Your Hearing Aids

A vast number of people face hearing losses, yet sadly, many of them never satisfactorily resolve them. Here are some of the factors that go into hearing aid success. It is a fact that almost one of every ten Americans has a significant hearing loss. But less than 25 percent of them have ever tried hearing aids. Why is that?

Information. Many people who can't hear well think they hear just fine–if only people would speak up, slow down and stop mumbling. In other words, it's somebody else's problem. They try to train their family and friends to accommodate their hearing losses, sometime without even knowing they're doing it. Often, it takes an embarrassing social error to get them to admit to a problem. Wouldn't it be a lot more reasonable to ask for an objective answer? The first step on the road to success is getting accurate information. This is where testing and evaluation become very important.

Appearance. Some people know they have less than perfect hearing, but they are embarrassed by it. They think they will be viewed as inferior, less competent or over the hill if people see them wearing hearing aids. But appearance need not be a hindrance to good hearing. Technical advances have allowed hearing aids to become extremely small–so small that aids are available that can be placed completely in the ear canal. 90 percent of the people who wear these aids consider them totally invisible. [Not everyone is a candidate for completely in the canal hearing aids, but most people who want them can be fitted with them.] Research shows that, as people regain the joy of hearing, they are less concerned about appearance. They rate even the largest hearing aids just as cosmetically appealing as in-the-ear models. In fact, some aids are now available in bright colors, so the wearer can show them off just like designer glasses.

Personal Value. Some people play down the idea of hearing aids because they don't think hearing is important enough to fix. They are either unaware or have forgotten that hearing is vitally important to social interaction.

People who do not hear well often suffer from isolation and depression. As the quality of their interaction shrivels, they withdraw from the world around them. Older people have been diagnosed as senile and children as retarded simply because their hearing problems made them withdraw into a shell. Not every hearing problem is that bad, of course, but if you stop talking to people at parties because you can't hear in all the noise, you may soon be labeled as antisocial. If you just smile and nod because you didn't hear what someone said, your social and emotional life could be in jeopardy. Modern technology can help you hear the parts of your life you've been missing.

Trust. Many people feel that hearing aid dispensers in general do not care about them and are really only interested in selling the most expensive hearing aids they can. It's unfortunate that there are some high-pressure operators in the hearing aid world. It's a good idea to avoid them. First and foremost, you should trust your hearing professional. Here are some questions you might think about asking.

  1. Who will be working with me and what is his or her training and experience?
  2. How will my hearing be evaluated?
  3. How will I know if I'm getting a good deal on a hearing aid?
  4. What happens if I don't like the hearing aid I buy?
  5. What kind of follow-up service will I receive?

After you hear the answers, you can decide if you're comfortable with what you heard and how you were treated.

Technology. Many people are totally confused by today's rapid-fire changes in technology–and hearing aids are definitely in the high-technology realm. Fortunately, the improvements in hearing aid technology have really made better hearing possible for a vast number of people. If you have a competent hearing professional on your side, she or he can guide you through the maze of technology. Of course, no one hearing solution is right for everyone, but here are some thoughts to let you know what technology is available.

Sound Quality. As you try your new hearing aid for the first time, here are some of the things you should be listening for:

Depending on your hearing loss and the type of instrument you've purchased, your hearing professional should be able to make any adjustments or fix any sound quality problems right in the office.

Patience. New hearing aids take getting used to. You may need to follow a specific wearing schedule or other instructions as you begin. This is often true even if you already wear hearing aids but change the type, say from behind-the-ear to completely-in-the-canal aids. Be patient, just as you would with a new prescription for eyeglasses. You must also be realistic. Hearing aids amplify sounds–all sounds. While your friend's voice will be louder and clearer, so will the sound of the refrigerator motor. After a while, your brain will adjust to pay attention to the sounds you want to hear and to ignore the ones that are unimportant. For this reason, wearing you hearing aids fairly continuously during your waking hours is a practical necessity. It's the only way to allow your brain to get used to the amplified sound. If you just put your aids on for company, they will always sound a little strange. If you wear them all the time, they will become part of you.

Motivation. The secret to success with hearing aids is to want to succeed. If your spouse or family members insist you get hearing aids, but you don't want them, the chances are they'll wind up inn you dresser drawer and not your ears. To be successful, you must, first, accept that you have a hearing loss that is lessening the quality of your life and, second, desire to improve. Motivated people tend to seek out information about their hearing loss and are willing to talk about their feelings and explore the available options to improve their hearing. Forcing someone who is not ready to improve to accept hearing aids may convert him or her to an enthusiastic hearing aid wearer, but the chances are not good.

Reasonable Expectations. Hearing aids are just that–aids–helpers. No matter how technically advanced, they can't return your hearing to normal except in cases of very mild hearing loss. While the best modern instruments can filter out much of the background noise, no hearing aid can eliminate it all. You'll have to let your brain do that. Your hearing aids should be comfortable, however. Ideally, you should not even be aware they're there. If they are annoying or irritating, come back to your hearing professional and have them fixed. If you do not experience a significant improvement within a month, work with your hearing professional to adjust or replace your hearing aids. Give your hearing aids a chance–it takes one to four months to get used to them–but do expect them to help you. And if you don't feel they're helping, demand results.

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