What to expect? That depends on your expectations. Your expectation(s) is probably the primary variable that will determine how well you do in the first few weeks of wearing a hearing aid for the first time. (Note: In this case I am looking at “…first time“ users who have never used a hearing aid.)
All hearing aids make sounds louder. Basic hearing aids often are just like turning the volume up on the TV, except having it in your ear means you won’t blast everyone else out of the room. But, hearing is not just having the volume loud enough. Hearing is understanding, understanding with some degree of clarity. Before there may have been confusions with words like “thirsty” and “Thursday”, or “Yes, I’ll get you a glass of water and “No, I didn’t ask you what day it was.”
Expectations? Will you understand everything? Probably not right away. If you are in a one-on-one conversation, with the person sitting in front of you and there is minimum background noise or competing conversations, the hearing aid should amplify the sounds that you were missing (provided it was adjusted correctly to compensate for your hearing loss vs. some mail order personal sound amplifier or PSA). Those amplified sounds will now provide the extra stimulation to your inner ear and then hopefully the brain will receive the proper neurological signals that will match up with the sound that you need and give you hearing AND understanding. A seemingly simple process that for most people worked fine many years ago. No, people don’t talk any faster or mumble more now than they did 20 years ago. You had better hearing then and could fill in the distortions. Now, without the hearing aids, speech may be blurred, mumbled, or as the classic expression goes: you can hear but can’t understand. If your expectation is that now with the hearing aid I will hear and understand, hold on! Consider this:
During your hearing test, your audiologist may have asked you to repeat back a series of single words. Why? These words are part of a phonetically balanced word list, sprinkled with lots of consonants, that will give the audiologist an overview of the effect your hearing loss is having on your ability to understand, not just hear, these words. If with a certain amount of amplification through the audiometer, and/or with a properly adjusted hearing aid, your understanding ability is better than 90%, then you are an excellent candidate to use a hearing aid in most situations successfully. Expectation fulfilled!
BUT, if your ability to understand these words is compromised during the hearing evaluation, then even with adequate amplification (at a comfortable listening level), or the use of a hearing aid may not be as successful as you may have expected. For instance, do you expect to hear your friend or spouse as they turn and walk out of the room? Nope. How about understanding the soft conversation from across the table in the restaurant that just went from fairly quiet to quite noisy…nope. Soft speech mixed with lots of background noise will really decrease one’s ability to understand a conversation, especially with a hearing loss. Don’t expect to understand it all as the background gets louder, unless you obtained a pair of really sophisticated, digital hearing instruments.
Background noise will undo most successful hearing aid fittings, unless you know what to expect and align your expectations accordingly. Yes, the most advanced (and expensive) hearing aids do a significantly better job of dealing with background noise today than they did 5 years ago, but everyone should know the limits of their hearing loss and the hearing aids’ technology. This will help your expectations. I always invite new hearing aid users back for a recheck within a few days of getting a new hearing aid to discuss their new found sounds AND how it met their expectations. Fortunately, with new computer controlled, digital technology the hearing aid can be readjusted to address certain hearing needs AND expectations. From this, the new hearing aid user will begin to enjoy better hearing and reconnect with those casual conversations they were missing.
Free hearing screenings or consultation available Monday through Saturday by appointment by calling 426-0127 in Fort Wayne, or in Northeastern Indiana call 1-800-832-0290. No cost. No obligation. Just information.
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