Hearing aids are marvelous little devices. They help us understand the world around us even after hearing loss has made it difficult or impossible to do so with the unaided ear. Those who wear hearing aids tend to be more physically active, optimistic, confident, and independent than those with untreated hearing loss. If you’ve decided to get a set of hearing aids, good for you! They are among the best things you can do to maintain your best quality of life once hearing loss has entered the picture.
While hearing aids may seem like “magic” in many ways, there’s a little more to the story. We can’t expect to simply pop in a pair of hearing aids and hear perfectly again. This is because we hear as much with our brains as we do with our ears.
It is recommended to start wearing hearing aids as soon as they are recommended after a regular hearing test. Unfortunately, most of us don’t follow this advice—the average person waits seven years from the time they notice hearing loss to the time they actually get hearing aids. Our brain can change a lot over the course of seven years, so by the time we finally start wearing hearing aids, it will have some catching up to do.
Everyone Has an Adjustment Period
Nearly everyone has an adjustment period, though one may be shorter or longer than another. In general, the sooner we start wearing hearing aids after the onset of hearing loss, the easier and faster our adjustment period will be. The longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to get used to wearing hearing aids. Some people may even need time to learn to understand speech again if they have been living with severe untreated hearing loss.
The amount of amplification that would be recommended to provide our ears with something close to “normal” hearing may be unpleasant at first. That’s because our brain is used to hearing a lot less. If we suddenly start pumping lots of high-frequency energy into our ears to make up for our hearing loss, our brain will be overwhelmed. For this reason, we may leave our hearing care professional’s office after our initial fitting with something less than the amount of amplification we’ll eventually want to have.
Over the course of the first month or two, we go through an adjustment period, during which our brain gets used to being able to hear again. We may need to return to the office—or virtual office if our hearing aids allow—for programming adjustments from time to time. At some point, most of us will begin to feel at home in our hearing aids. Here are a few additional tips for making your adjustment period as brief as possible:
Actually, Wear Them!
We will give you advice on how frequently to wear your hearing aids during your initial adjustment period. Be sure not to skip any sessions with your hearing aids, or you could be inadvertently prolonging your adjustment period. It is common for people to feel irritated by new hearing aids in the beginning, but when asked after one year of wear, 85% of people say they’re satisfied with their hearing aids.
It should be noted, however, that you should not feel pain while wearing your hearing aids. If sound is painful while you’re wearing your hearing aids, you should have your programming altered. Pain and serious discomfort are not normal parts of the adjustment period!
Talk to Other Wearers
If you have friends, relatives, or coworkers who wear hearing aids, talk to them about their experiences with their hearing aids. Understanding another person’s experience can help us to remember that the irritation we may be experiencing is temporary and that our hearing aids will soon be an amazing help to us.
Keep in Touch with Your Hearing Care Provider
Hearing aids are not something you pick up at the convenience store! Your ongoing hearing health is best served by regular contact with your hearing care provider, even after you start wearing your hearing aids. Stay in touch with your hearing care provider and ask any questions that come up.
Get Regular Hearing Tests
Hearing loss typically progresses to a certain point and then plateaus. It’s never obvious at what point any given individual’s hearing loss will plateau, but it is important to make sure your hearing aids are treating the hearing loss you currently have, not the hearing loss you had a year ago! Make regular appointments to get your hearing tested to ensure that your hearing aids are doing the work they need to do.
Remember, it’s not normal for hearing aids to feel perfect right away. Unless your hearing aids are causing pain or serious discomfort, it’s important to follow your hearing care provider’s guidelines about wearing them regularly. You’ll soon become adjusted to hearing again. Welcome back to the world of sound!