Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Good for you. You knew you weren’t hearing as well as you used to and scheduled an appointment with a hearing care professional. Just by taking this small step, you’re already part of a savvy group of people who proactively take charge of their hearing health.
If you’re diagnosed with hearing loss as a result of your upcoming hearing evaluation, you’re likely to hear a lot of new terms. You also might be asked to make some decisions that will impact your health—and your pocketbook. Although hearing evaluations are comfortable, non-invasive procedures and hearing care professionals have your best interests at heart, it’s still advisable to take a family member or loved one along with you to this medical appointment. Here’s why:
Hearing loss impacts the whole family
Have you considered how your hearing issues are affecting relationships with your family and friends? Asking your significant other to accompany you provides an opportunity for them to voice their thoughts and feelings, too. You may be surprised what they’ve been thinking. The insights they share at your appointment may help you and your hearing care professional better customize your treatment plan.
Many people postpone having their hearing tested because they think no one else is impacted by their hearing loss. In fact, studies have shown that untreated hearing loss negatively impacts relationships. Consider these findings from a 2009 survey of 1,500 people with hearing loss:
- 44% said relationships with their partner, friends or family had suffered because they can’t hear well,
- 34% said they had lost touch with friends or seen their marriage end due to communication issues involving hearing loss,
- 69% said their hearing loss interferes with their ability to participate in everyday conversations, resulting in 52% saying they felt left out of social situations.
There’s a lot to know about hearing aids
Depending upon the severity of your hearing loss, hearing aids may be prescribed as treatment. If so, you’ll appreciate having someone with you to determine which manufacturer and model of hearing aid best suits your lifestyle and budget—as well as how to care for your new piece of technology.
As you listen to the healthcare practitioner, your companion can take notes. Here are a few questions you’ll want answered before you leave the office:
- Does your hearing center offer a trial period for testing the devices you’ve chosen and, if so, what are the specifics of this policy?
- How long should you wear your devices each day and what can you expect when you first begin wearing them?
- Do your devices have different settings? If so, what are they and how do you change from one to the other?
- What is the best way to clean and store your devices at the end of the day?
- How long can you expect the batteries to last and how do you change them?
- When should you come back for a follow-up appointment?
Hearing aids have options and accessories
Thanks to advances in technology, certain features allow hearing aids to interact with other digital devices in your life such as smartphones and televisions. Additionally, various accessories can enhance the life of your hearing aids and make them more enjoyable to wear. Because these features and accessories vary according to the make and model of your hearing aid, it’s always a good idea to have someone along to make sure you choose which are best for you.
- Bluetooth streaming. If you’re accustomed to using wireless devices, make sure the hearing aids you purchase are Bluetooth compatible. Utilizing this feature along with the hearing aids’ appropriate streaming device can enhance activities such as talking on a cell phone or watching television at a comfortable volume with others.
- FM systems make it easy to understand what people are saying in noisy situations such as classrooms, the theater or other public venues. This technology reduces background noise, improves sound clarity and allows you to hear from a distance, which helps reduce the amount of mental fatigue you experience when you strain to hear.
- Hearing aid dehumidifiers. Those who perspire heavily, live in a humid climate, or are constantly exposed to wet environments may want to invest in a hearing aid dehumidifier. These units remove the moisture from your hearing aids overnight while you sleep, maximizing performance and extending the life of your hearing devices.
- Lifestyle accessories. Not only will the severity of hearing loss be a determining factor in which type of hearing aid you purchase, so will your lifestyle. Active individuals may want to invest in hearing aid accessories which protect devices from the elements, such as sweatbands, and secure them to clothing. Fashionistas may want to personalize their devices with colorful charms and decals.
If your hearing loss isn’t severe enough to warrant hearing aids, you may still wish to have a little assistance in certain listening situations. Work with your hearing care professional and family members to determine if any of these assistive listening devices would be of benefit:
- Alerting devices such as vibrating alarm clocks or doorbell;
- Safety devices, such as vibrating or flashing light smoke and carbon monoxide detectors;
- Devices for watching television, such as wireless headsets with personal volume controls;
- Amplified or captioned telephones to help you better understand phone conversations.
Wearing a hearing aid is just part of the solution
Hearing is a brain activity so, depending upon the length of time you’ve waited to seek treatment, your brain may have “forgotten” how to hear common, everyday sounds. Your our brain’s ability to recognize certain sounds in your environment may take awhile to retrain.
And, since untreated hearing loss has been linked to a variety of other medical issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, depression and dementia, heeding the prescribed course of treatment sooner rather than later can significantly impact your quality of life.
That’s a lot to take in—and yet another reason why having a supportive someone with you during the hearing evaluation and subsequent hearing care appointments is advisable. Together with your professional, you can better manage expectations about your new devices and navigate any challenges you encounter along your path to better hearing.