Guide To Better Hearing
Hearing Aids Work
You have made an important decision to begin the process of using hearing aids. This workbook is a result of a year-long study to learn what causes the difference between a person who uses their hearing aids all of their waking hours, versus a person who rarely or casually uses their hearing aids. From this study we have isolated five principles which are the factors of success. Each factor is discussed in a chapter of this workbook. Keep a pen or pencil handy and make notes as you use the book. Review this text often to help you understand the 5 Steps and you will grow to become proficient at using your new hearing aids.
Click on any Step Below to Review:
Step 1: Admit I have a hearing problem
STEP 1 – Admit I have a hearing problem.
By now you have had your hearing professionally tested and have been told the fact that you have a permanent hearing problem.
You now have two choices: (1) denial or (2) acceptance. It is normal for most people to go through a period of denial. What is sad is that most people wait five-to-seven years before solving their hearing problem. A person in denial uses a typical thought process.
- “I hear fine, it’s just that people mumble; they don’t speak clearly any more.”
- “It’s the noisy places where I have trouble hearing … I’ll just avoid those places and I’ll be OK.”
- “My hearing will heal in time.”
- “I hear what I need to hear, I’ll just ask them to repeat.”
- “I can cope with it. I’ll just concentrate a little harder.”
- “It’s really not bad enough that I need hearing aids yet.”
- “Wearing hearing aids does not fit into my self image.”
- “If my hearing gets any worse, then I’ll get help.”
The fact is, you cannot hide your hearing loss. It’s more obvious than any pair of hearing aids. Your associates, clients, friends and loved ones already know that you have it. You can push the fact out of your mind, but you are only fooling yourself. You can decide to try and conceal your problem, but the symptoms have already given your secret away.
- You answer the wrong questions.
- You confuse similar words, like “bathroom” and “vacuum,” “dime” and “time,” “peach” and “teach.”
- You turn up the TV too loud for normal listeners.
- You have started a pattern of asking others to repeat what they have said.
- When listening, you get a confused look on your face.
Your commitment to concealing your hearing problem will begin a downward social spiral. Here are the most usual consequences. You will experience eventually:
- Give up your favorite activities rather than be embarrassed by your hearing problem.
- Avoid all situations which could be difficult.
- Lose your sharpness, your vibrant self.
- Unknowingly shift your burden to your loved ones.
- Cause loved ones to give up on you.
- Become a victim of your decision to do nothing.
The first step to overcoming your communication problem is admitting to yourself and to your nearest loved one(s) …
- That you have an irreversible hearing problem.
- That your hearing problem is affecting the quality of your life.
- That medication will not ‘open up’ your ears.
- That there is not a surgery that will correct sensorineural or a mixed-type hearing loss.
- That your friends, loved ones, clients and associates already know you have a problem hearing.
- That the only positive choice you have is hearing aids.
Step 2: Make a choice to seek help
STEP 2 – Make A Personal Choice To Seek Help With A Good Attitude
It is not the purchase of a product which will give you better hearing. Only about 20 percent of your success to achieve better hearing will depend on the performance of the hearing aid products you purchased.
The fundamental requirement to overcome your hearing problem is your desire to learn and a vigorous determination to increase your ability to hear. The six characteristics which are present in all persons who complete the transition to hearing aids are:
- Positive attitude.
- Willingness to learn.
- Relentless commitment not to quit.
- Time spent practicing the use of hearing aids.
- Patience while your brain acclimates to ambient sounds and noises.
- Effort of the wearer which matches their desire to increase their ability to hear.
Hearing aids will not bring you instant gratification. They are not like eyeglasses – which by simply putting them on will result in clear vision. Hearing aids are more like skates; buying a good pair is only the starting place. A good coach who knows how to teach skating is the second step. Time spent in practice, with a willing attitude by the student, is the third and most important step.
To achieve better hearing, you must work at it daily. The ability to hear again can be relearned — not purchased. The most successful hearing aid users will gladly tell you that their effort to learn, with their time spent practicing, please was the price they paid for better hearing.
The decision to have a good attitude about going through the process to improve your hearing must be yours, not that of your spouse, son or daughter. As a hearing professional, we cannot make this commitment for you; it is your choice alone. Abe Lincoln once remarked that “most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” And as you embark on the process of better hearing, a cheerful attitude will not only effect your success, but will be an encouragement to everyone you know.
Step 3: Learn all I can about it
STEP 3 – Personal Education: Learn All I Can About My Problem
The most effective remedy for hearing loss is personal education. You need to learn all you can about your particular loss. To begin, you will need to know:
- What is the type of hearing loss I have?
- What is the degree of loss in my left and right ears?
- How has my brain been affected?
- How do hearing aids bridge the gap?
- What can I do to improve my hearing?
What type of hearing loss do I have? (Your hearing professional will provide this information as indicated by your hearing test.)
The types of hearing loss:
- Conductive hearing loss: Sound isn’t conducted properly from the outer or middle ear to the inner ear.
- Sensorineural hearing loss: The inner ear is unable to properly transmit sound to the brain. The hair cells inside the inner ear (especially those for high frequency hearing) have withered due to age, noise or medications, and no longer pick up sounds properly.
- Mixed loss: This is a combination of a conductive loss and a sensorineural loss.
How has my brain been affected? If you have lost your hearing gradually over time, then your brain has been slowly starved from stimulation in the sound frequencies you no longer hear at normal volume.
So, when you first begin using hearing aids, your brain will be startled to receive signals it has been missing. Until it becomes acclimated to these sounds, you will think to yourself…
- Everyone’s voice sounds odd to me.
- My own voice bothers me. It sounds like I am speaking into a barrel.
- The hearing aids are noisy. Unless I go into a quiet room, they pick up all sorts of distracting noises.
- Will this condition improve with time?
Here is a simple example of how your brain will categorize sound and acclimate itself over time. A beautiful house in a wonderful old neighborhood was for sale. But what about the railroad track just beyond the alley? The prospective couple was promised by the realtor that the train came by twice each day, but that they would never hear it. “Just ask any of the other neighbors who had lived in the neighborhood for years!!” So the couple bought the house and moved in. For the first few nights they were awakened at 2:15 in the morning as the train lumbered by. Then, after several weeks in their new home, a friend came for an overnight visit. At breakfast the guest asked, “how can you sleep through the noise of that train?” “Funny you should mention it,” the couple said. “We never hear it anymore.” Did their hearing change? No, the noise became a familiar part of their environment and their brains categorized it and became acclimated to it.
Because you haven’t heard normal sounds and noises for a long time, wearing hearing aids will be like moving into a new house. At first, the sounds amplified by your hearing aids will sound tinny, metallic, artificial and unnatural. But, this is because you are hearing the high frequency sounds (like /s/, /f/, /k/, etc.), you have been missing, or have heard differently for years. This unnatural sound quality will actually improve your speech comprehension — but only if you stick with your new hearing aids until your brain has a chance to adjust. And with practice and time, your brain will adjust. Hearing and understanding involve more than the hearing organ. Your hearing is a complex function which requires the cooperation of the brain and your other senses.
Understanding occurs in your brain, not in your ears. Reacclimating your brain to true sound is a little like priming a pump; you’ve got to stay with it long enough for the water to flow. Once it is flowing – and it will flow – the hardest part is over.
- From early childhood the sounds of words and noises are conveyed to the brain to gather visual images of things. This information is stored in memory compartments which are your “sound vocabulary.”
- When you lose part of your hearing, the corresponding part of your brain – which now has no input from your ear – volunteers that brain-part for another assignment.
- After a time of not hearing, the brain will need a period of time to become familiarized with the high frequency sounds of speech and environmental sounds. This is the hardest time for a person who begins using hearing aids.
- When you begin using hearing aids, your brain will make little use of the new sound information for five to six weeks, then gradually it will start to use it.
- The ability to make instant association depends on repeatedly hearing a word. If you do not hear a word for a long period of time, difficulty connecting the sound to its meaning
“Auditory Confusion” is caused by the flood of authentic sounds, noises and voices which suddenly break into your consciousness after not being heard for years. These are sounds which will again become a part of your subconscious once your brain hears them on a daily basis through hearing aids. For example:
- The true pitch of your telephone ring.
- The sound of your clothes rustling as you walk.
- The woosh of your air conditioning vent or “hum” of your refrigerator motor.
- The crackling and popping of the pages of the newspaper.
- The whir of your computer.
- Your ability to hear, then associate these sounds with their meaning, will increase with practice.
Step 4: Set Realistic Expectations
STEP 4 – Set Realistic Expectations
If your hearing was lost suddenly, or, has been lost over time, you will not hear again like you once did with normal hearing. This is true regardless of the type of hearing loss you have or the type of hearing aids you own. Similar to dentures, hearing aids are only a substitute for the original – with them you may live a near-normal life; without them you will certainly be handicapped.
Focus on your improvement, not on those negative times when your hearing aids don’t let you hear what you want to hear. If you become discouraged, refer to your AIDED and UNAIDED scores on your audiogram. You may be achieving a significant percent of improvement over how well you would be hearing without hearing aids. Your hearing aids’ job is to help you hear better, not perfectly.
Twenty percent of the time hearing aid shells must be sent back to be remade for a better fit. This is normal. Let us know should your ear become sore. This can be easily remedied.
The “tinny” or mechanical sounds you hear are normal. These are soft, high-frequency sounds you have been missing. Your hearing aids are giving these sounds back to you. This may be bothersome at first, but better understanding comes from letting you hear them. Be patient while your brain gets reacquainted with these sounds.
Many internal electronic adjustments will be made step-by-step over several weeks by one of our staff to help your brain gradually become acclimated to normal listening levels again. This will require several visits and these adjustments will be made to your hearing aids while you wait, with your input. These adjustments will be made to your hearing aids while you wait, with your input.
At first your voice may sound strange to you. Some wearers say that in the beginning they sound like they are in a barrel. In time, it will sound natural.
Background noise is normal. Normal-hearing people hear it, too. Don’t give up on hearing aids because noise bothers you. Better hearing will require you to put up with a few inconveniences.
There is a learning curve which usually takes from six weeks to six months. Success comes from practice and a commitment to wear them all your waking hours. Stick with it. You will succeed. Part-time users will fail to receive the full benefit of hearing aids.
Should your hearing aids ever stop working, do not be alarmed. This is normal. The inner ear canal is 100 percent humidity and remains a constant 98 degrees. Earwax is a combination of salt and corrosive body acid. These conditions are harmful to electronics. But it is in this environment that hearing aids must perform. You will need to bring them in for routine professional care.
Step 5: Your keys to success
STEP 5 – Practice, Time And Patience: Your Keys To Success
There is a common discipline followed by all men and women who successfully make the transition to hearing aids. It is called practice. It is an investment that will cost you time and patience. It is an investment that usually begins to pay dividends within 45 days. Once you have logged the sufficient number of hours for your brain to acclimate to ambient sounds, you will be able to go on with your life without thinking so much about your hearing.
While we encourage new users to start at a slow pace at home, your ultimate goal should be to use your hearing aids all day, every day. This includes times when it is quiet, times when it is noisy and times when you may think you don’t need to be wearing them.
After you have completed your initial week-to-two-weeks of gradual hearing aid use, you should put your hearing aids on first thing when you wake up and take them out at bedtime. It is a mistake to only wear them when you go out to social functions because your brain will be flooded and startled by unfamiliar ambient sounds.
Unless your hearing aids become part of your habit through daily use, your brain will not be stimulated long enough to learn to interpret the true sounds of your world; in this case hearing aids will always make your environment sound funny and you will probably begin to keep them in your sock drawer. Frequent and consistent use is necessary for your brain to adjust and for you to achieve successful communications again.
Be patient and don’t give up. Retreat temporarily if you become tired, but don’t quit. Keep working – it will become easy. Call us whenever you need help or encouragement.
It is your responsibility to stay in contact with us on any concern you have about excessive loudness or lack of perceived benefit. On average, new hearing aid users should come back three or four times during the first 30 days for us to make adjustments, check your progress, and help you overcome hard listening situations.
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