So, after years of family and friends complaining about your hearing loss, you have finally decided to get hearing aids. That’s great! Congratulations on taking a big step towards improving your relationships, career and enjoyment of life. How do you know what to expect? What is “normal” versus “not normal” when it comes to hearing aids? The process is a little different for everyone, but here is a general guide for what to expect before getting hearing aids, during the initial adjustment period and in the long term.
If you decide to shop around and see a couple of different hearing healthcare professionals about hearing aids, expect that they could have different recommendations. There isn’t one brand of hearing aid that is considered “best” for everyone, and the one your friend raves about might not be the right one for your particular needs.
Expect hearing aids to be a significant investment. They are a big ticket purchase – cost for a high-quality pair can range from nearly $2,000 to more than $7,000 depending on the level of technology.
Expect a thorough assessment, one that takes not just your hearing, but also your health, lifestyle, priorities and budget into consideration.
Expect to purchase two hearing aids if you have hearing loss in both ears. Even if you think you only need one device, human hearing is binaural by design. Most people get optimal results when the brain receives input from both ears.
Expect to be offered a trial period with a money back guarantee if you are not satisfied with your hearing aids. Remember: Hearing aids should provide benefit to you during the trial period in the form of improved hearing. If the hearing aids provide no improvement in hearing, it’s possible they are not the right devices for you. Most hearing healthcare professionals will work with you until the best solution is found.
Expect a period of adjustment when you first start wearing your hearing aids. The average time a person with known hearing loss takes to finally get hearing aids is 5-7 years, so it has likely been a while since you have been able to fully hear all of the sounds around you. From the dripping of the faucet to the sound of the air conditioning unit running to the sound of your feet hitting the floor as you walk, the world is full of sound.
Remember: even people with very good hearing sometimes have trouble hearing in challenging situations.
Expect to return to your hearing healthcare professional several times during the trial period for adjustments. Today’s hearing aids can be fine tuned to address your needs, and your provider will want to make sure you are hearing your best.
When you first begin wearing hearing aids, expect your voice to sound funny. Hearing aids work by amplifying sounds, and that includes your own voice. Many hearing aid styles at least partially occlude the ear canals which can also make your voice sound different. You can experiment with this “occlusion effect” by talking out loud while plugging your ears with your fingers. Most hearing aid wearers notice this effect at first, but then quickly adjust to it.
Don’t expect perfection. Hearing aids are not a “cure all,” but are simply one tool to help you hear better. They are not a perfect replacement for normally-functioning ears. Although today’s hearing aids are miles above where they used to be, you might still have trouble hearing in certain situations, such as a noisy restaurant or at a party. Keep in mind that even people with very good hearing also still have trouble catching every word of a conversation in these environments.
Expect your hearing aids to be comfortable. You should know they are there, but you should never experience pain, soreness, bleeding or rash. If any of these occur, remove the hearing aids immediately and see your hearing care professional for an adjustment in fit.
Expect to wear your hearing aids for all waking hours after the adjustment period, except when you are showering or swimming. People who wear their hearing aids are more successful in retraining their brains to hear all of the sounds they have been missing. And, just like wearing glasses, you will quickly adjust to your corrected hearing and will most likely not want to be without your aids for any length of time.
Expect to be able to hear soft sounds once again and to be able to hear louder sounds comfortably. See a hearing care professional, however, if “normal loud” sounds, such as the roar of a car engine or a door slamming, are painful.
Expect whistling (feedback) as you put your hearing aids in unless you turn them off while inserting. The hearing aids should not continue to whistle after they are secure in your ears. See your hearing healthcare professional for an adjustment in fit if this happens.
Expect to do some minor maintenance on your hearing aids in order to keep them functioning properly. Daily cleaning with a soft cloth, wax removal, use of a dry kit overnight and changing the batteries are all tasks that are easy to accomplish.
Expect to see your hearing care professional on a regular basis for adjustments or for any larger maintenance issues.
Expect to purchase a new set of hearing aids approximately every 5-7 years. Like any electronic device, they will wear out eventually. Also, technology is being constantly improved, and you’ll have the benefit of the latest innovations.
Your hearing care professional has a vested interest in your success with your new hearing aids.
Although hearing aids improve the quality of your life and allow you to get back to doing the activities you love, there is no doubt they are a significant life change. With just a little bit of knowledge about what to expect, you can make the adjustment to hearing aids as smooth and stress-free as possible for yourself and those around you. Remember to see your hearing care professional if you have any questions or concerns during the process. They have a vested interest in your success and will help you achieve it!