Hearing loss can be a challenging and isolating experience, making it difficult to communicate with others and enjoy the sounds of the world around us. Fortunately, hearing aids have come a long way in recent years, offering an effective and discreet solution to hearing loss. If you’re considering getting hearing aids, it’s important to know what to expect before you make the investment. Or if you just purchased aids and are waiting for the fitting appointment, this guide is for you too.
As a professional audiologist who has fit hearing aids for the last 12 years, I’ve seen firsthand the transformative effects that hearing aids can have on people’s lives. In this article, I’ll be sharing some important things to know before getting your first pair of hearing aids, from the fitting process to the maintenance and care that will keep them functioning optimally for years to come.
Fitting and Programming
When it comes to getting hearing aids, the fitting and programming process is crucial for ensuring that they work optimally for your unique hearing needs. You can buy an expensive hearing aid from anywhere but it is the skill of the audiologist in adjusting the device that makes it good or poor.
That’s why your initial fitting appointment with a licensed audiologist should take 30 minutes to an hour, to give them enough time to properly fit and program the hearing aids to your prescription and then teach you how to use it.
Before the fitting appointment (like at the hearing test) the audiologist will discuss domes vs earmolds and will take ear impressions to create custom molds for your hearing aids if needed. This ensures a comfortable and secure fit in your ears, which is essential for optimal performance. They’ll also conduct a series of tests to determine the degree and type of your hearing loss, which will inform the programming of your hearing aids.
Programming hearing aids to your prescription involves adjusting the settings of the hearing aids to match your unique hearing needs. This includes settings for gain (amplification), frequency, and background noise algorithms that affect your ability to hear different sounds. The goal is to provide you with clear and natural-sounding speech while minimizing background noise and feedback.
It’s important to remember that fitting and programming hearing aids are not a one-size-fits-all process like OTC hearing devices. Your audiologist will work closely with you to ensure that your hearing aids are personalized to your needs and that you feel comfortable and confident wearing them. They also run real ear measurement tests to ensure aids are at prescription settings that research recommends.
This is a process where a small microphone is placed in your ear and the hearing aid is turned on to measure how well the device is working for you. Real ear measures can determine whether your hearing aids are providing the correct amount of amplification for your specific hearing loss.
By taking the time to properly fit and program your hearing aids, you can experience a significant improvement in your ability to hear and communicate with others. So, don’t rush through the fitting process, and make sure to ask your hearing care professional any questions or concerns you may have along the way.
The Appearance of Hearing Aids
One of the concerns that many people have when considering hearing aids is their appearance. However, with the advancements in technology, hearing aids have become very small and discreet, making them unlikely to be noticed by others. In fact, the only thing that people are likely to notice is that you are hearing them much better.
While some hearing aids may still be visible when placed behind the ear or inside the ear canal, many models are designed to be almost invisible. This is especially true for the newer, smaller models that use advanced digital technology to improve hearing without being obtrusive.
The important thing to remember is that the appearance of your hearing aids should not be a barrier to improving your hearing. The benefits of being able to hear clearly and communicate effectively far outweigh any concerns about appearance.
In fact, with properly fitted and programmed hearing aids, you can experience a significant improvement in your ability to hear speech and other sounds. This can have a profound impact on your quality of life, allowing you to participate more fully in social activities and enjoy the sounds of the world around you.
So, if you’re worried about the appearance of hearing aids, rest assured that there are many options available that are discreet and effective. And, remember that the benefits of better hearing far outweigh any concerns about appearance.
Changes in Sound Perception
After getting your first pair of hearing aids, you may notice that certain sounds are different than what you are used to. This is because hearing aids amplify sounds to make them more audible, and this can take some time to get used to.
While you should expect substantial improvement in speech clarity, certain sounds that you may not have noticed before may become more noticeable. For example, the sound of the toilet flushing might sound like Niagra Falls or the sound of crinkling paper may become louder or more distinct.
However, it’s important to remember that these changes are temporary and your brain will eventually adjust to the new sounds. The brain is remarkably adaptable, and over time it will learn to filter out unnecessary sounds and focus on important ones.
At first, you may not like the sound of your own voice, as it will sound different with hearing aids. But, with time and continued use, your brain will get used to the new sound of your voice, and it will become more natural.
It’s important to give yourself time to adjust to the new sounds and to use your hearing aids consistently. The brain needs time to adjust to the changes in sound perception, and this process can take several days to a few weeks.
Your audiologist will also provide guidance on how to adjust to the new sounds, and they may recommend starting with shorter periods of use and gradually increasing the amount of time you wear your hearing aids each day.
By being patient and consistent, you can help your brain adapt to the new sounds and enjoy the full benefits of improved hearing with your new hearing aids.
Self-Perception with Hearing Aids
In addition to changes in sound perception, getting hearing aids can also lead to changes in self-perception. You may have been living with hearing loss for a long time and have adapted to a different way of communicating and interacting with others. With the use of hearing aids, you may feel like you are rediscovering a part of yourself and your ability to connect with others.
In addition, you may notice other changes in self-perception, such as feeling more confident in social situations or feeling less fatigued at the end of the day. By improving your hearing, you can improve your overall quality of life and feel more like yourself again.
Comfort and Adaptation
While hearing aids can greatly improve your ability to hear, it can take some time to get used to wearing them both physically and mentally. Initially, you may feel a sensation of having something in your ear, and you may need to adjust to the increased sounds around you.
It’s important to give yourself time to adapt to your hearing aids, and to be patient with the process. Your audiologist can provide guidance and support as you adjust to your new hearing aids. It’s also important to go in to see your hearing care professional multiple times to ensure that you’re adapting correctly and maximizing the performance of the devices.
Also, seek out guidance from people going through the same experience as you. I have found Facebook groups to be great places to ask questions. I moderate some groups and there are many others available.
Expected Maintenance and Care
Proper maintenance and care are essential to ensuring the longevity and optimal performance of your hearing aids. Your hearing care professional will provide you with instructions on how to clean and care for your hearing aids. It’s important to follow these instructions carefully to avoid damaging your hearing aids.
Regular cleaning of your hearing aids can help prevent wax and debris buildup, which can affect the performance of your devices. You can clean your hearing aids using a soft, dry cloth or a specialized cleaning tool, especially around the microphones. Avoid using water, solvents, or cleaning products on your hearing aids, as this can cause damage.
In addition to cleaning, it’s important to have your hearing aids serviced regularly by a professional. Your audiologist may recommend a maintenance schedule for your specific devices. Regular maintenance can help catch any issues early on and prevent more serious problems from occurring. This is included in bundle pricing.
By properly maintaining and caring for your hearing aids, you can ensure that they continue to function optimally and provide you with the best possible hearing experience. It’s important to follow the instructions provided by your hearing care professional and to seek professional help if you encounter any issues with your hearing aids.
In conclusion, getting your first pair of hearing aids can be a life-changing experience, but it’s important to be prepared for what to expect. Remember that your fitting appointment will likely take at least an hour, as your hearing care professional will need to properly fit and program your hearing aids to your hearing loss prescription. Don’t be discouraged if you notice changes in sound perception or self-perception, as these adjustments are normal and will improve over time.
It’s also important to properly maintain and care for your hearing aids to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Regular cleaning and professional servicing are crucial for keeping your devices functioning properly.
Remember that seeking professional help from a hearing care professional is the first step towards improving your hearing and quality of life. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional audiologist who can guide you through the process of getting hearing aids and provide ongoing support and care. With the right help and support, you can enjoy improved hearing and a better quality of life. If you haven’t selected a hearing aid yet, please see our recommendations.