5 Ways to Help Someone Adjust to Wearing Hearing Aids
Hearing slowly fades because of age, disease, noise exposure, etc. New technology has employed computerized chip innovations to address loss. Hearing aid advertisements abound in the media in response to our desire to undo hearing loss and enhance our auditory understanding.
The hearing aid industry wants people to hear. It sells product and offers abundant suggestions for doing well with new hearing aids. Our emphasis here, in just five suggestions, is to look at what you and I can do to help a new hearing aid user be successful.
1. Recognize the hearing aid is in someone else’s ear.
What you hear is not what others hear. That person with loss is listening through broken ears. There will be confusion. If hearing loss has been present for a long time, sounds may no longer be recognizable. Case in point? A user with new aids may jump the first time a toilet is flushed. That sound will become familiar with repeated toilet use. There are even more subtle sounds in the environment that have been absent for some time. Don’t lose patience with your someone when you keep getting questions as to what has become a “new” sound.
Hearing may differ between ears. New hearing aids may look the same, but the “guts” will reflect differences. New users may confuse the aids and place them in the wrong ears. (Manufacturers label hearing aids for users–red is usually right and blue is usually left.) When sounds are heard as louder on one side, the new user will look in the wrong place for sound or speaker. Help the person tell sound source.
Discomfort accompanies something new in the ear. Encourage slow accommodation to that thing in the ear. An hour or two a day of hearing aid use is good. It may take a week or more for your someone to be comfortable with the hearing aids in place.
2. Make sure the hearing aid user understands warranty information.
Hearing aids come with warranties and return privileges. If the new user is unhappy with the hearing aid fittings, encourage return to the hearing aid vendor. Discomfort issues may be resolved with earmold or circuity adjustment. Today’s aids may have computerized controls only accessible by hearing aid vendor. Getting your someone back to the vendor may resolve user unhappiness. Modification of hearing aid case or circuitry may alter warranty. Get a warranty update.
3. Structure your communication settings.
Competing noise reduces understanding. Restaurant environments are notorious because they often have ongoing multiple conversations, noisy equipment operating, or interfering outside traffic noise. Hearing aids may have filters and programming to minimize background noise, but they still may fail a given hearing aid user. So, choose seating away from noise. Avoid seating by the kitchen where dishes are managed. Avoid windows next to the street. Avoid seating near music and speakers. Position your hearing aid user next to a wall—this eliminates exposure to 180 degrees of potential noise. Encourage the user to turn on noise elimination circuitry in the aid, if present. (New users may not understand that the circuit needs to be on for it to work.)
4. Construct a list of difficult listening situations.
Today’s computer-mediated circuits have a variety of settings that allow the hearing aid to be customized to the user. Note specific occasions where you notice hearing problems or discomfort. Make a list. Encourage your new user to do the same. (Your two lists may not be in total agreement.) When your someone returns to the hearing aid vendor for follow-up, the user needs to bring both lists. The vendor has specific strategies for dealing with each problem area and in many cases can modify the hearing aid internally to change amplification characteristics. Even with big sound quality alterations, the hearing aid will continue to look the same to the user. Again, be sure the user knows about changes to warranty and return policy with any of these kind of changes.
5. Help the hearing aid user keep follow-up appointments.
We live in an independent society and many of us just want to be left alone so we can “do our own thing.” There are hearing aid users who will buy very expensive devices, wear them home, and then park them in the top drawer of the dresser! If your hearing impaired someone is a person like this, the best thing you can do is get that new user back to his hearing aid vendor. That vendor is selling “hearing happiness.” If there is no happiness, the business is in trouble, so this problem is not your user’s problem alone. Encourage keeping all follow-up appointments. If your someone is a family member, get a refund instead of another heirloom for the top drawer.