The following principles have been used by thousands of hearing aid wearers to successfully transition to better hearing health:
We may not know what we haven’t heard because we didn’t hear it! Many of us don’t recognize the insidious onset of age-related hearing loss because it is not a sudden phenomenon. Family members and friends can watch out for each other and have supportive conversations about good communication strategies, including self-awareness of our hearing capabilities. Once we know that there may be difficulty with our hearing, initial steps to compensate may be initiated.
Once we are past the point of formal testing and have a diagnosis, accepting the fact that the hearing loss is permanent and is impacting our health and communication allows for us to get the help we need to begin the journey towards better hearing.
- Positive attitude
Making a personal choice to achieve better hearing with a positive attitude is critical. Embracing the idea that we are setting a course for better hearing health can instill enthusiasm for doing what is truly the right thing for us to do. Simply purchasing hearing aids does not signal success. To overcome hearing loss, we must have a desire to learn and the determination to increase our ability to reconnect with the world through our hearing. As with any endeavor that requires an investment of time to sharpen our skills, those who approach hearing aid use with a positive attitude are far more likely to achieve success.
A key step toward remediation of hearing loss is personal education. The more we know about hearing loss and treatment, the more actively we can participate in adjustment to hearing aid use. Hearing requires more than the ears. It is a complex function that requires the cooperation of the brain and your other senses.
- Realistic Expectations
Hearing aids will help us to hear better — but not perfectly. Focus on incremental improvements and remember the learning curve can take anywhere from six weeks to six months. Success comes from practice and commitment.
Recent research from the University of Colorado, Boulder (Glick and Sharma, 2020) has shown that subjects with untreated mild to moderate hearing loss had experienced reassignment of some of their brain centers from hearing to other senses. After wearing hearing aids for six months, their brains were reorganizing, providing cognitive benefit.
With initial use of hearing aids, the brain will start to adapt to signals it has been missing. The brain needs time to become familiar again with the high-frequency sounds of speech and environmental noises. Re-acclimating the brain to true, full sound, after years of distortion caused by hearing loss can be challenging. Perceptions will improve over time, as the true sounds of everyday life are re- introduced to consciousness after not being heard for years.
At first, all sounds may seem loud. The true pitch of the telephone, the sound of clothes rustling or footsteps while walking, the whoosh of the air conditioner or the hum of the refrigerator motor can seem loud in relation to other sounds. These sounds will become part of the subconscious again as the brain begins to adapt and categorize them.
- Practice and patience
Success is a combination of practice, time and patience. Once enough hours of listening have been logged for the brain to acclimate, the sounds of daily life are simply restored to a new normal. For some, it is appropriate to begin with a schedule wearing the hearing aids part-time gradually working up to wearing them for a full day. Others may simply plug and play” and not need a gradual schedule. People are different, and hearing difficulties are unique from one person to another. Many hearing professionals recommend listening to recorded books as a way to practice hearing and understanding. In the first few weeks, if it is too tiring, rest. Then try again. Reach out for support and stick with it. The payoff is immense.
Glick, H. and Sharma, A. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 18 February 2020 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2020.00093