So you have taken the first step to hearing better, you have bought a set of hearing aids. Firstly, I would like to congratulate you. Well done, I do understand that for some people, this is a huge step. I won't get into what I think of the stigma that exists and the psychological tricks that we play on ourselves. I will just admit I understand them and congratulate you for overcoming them. But what happens now and what can you expect?
Hearing aids are not normal hearing
Let's be clear here, hearing aids are not natural hearing. They do not restore your hearing to the normal, before you lost some of your hearing. Hearing aids are just that, an aid to hearing. However, a good hearing aid which has been carefully fitted to you. Taking into account your type of hearing loss and your lifestyle, will make a significant difference in your life.
Modern hearing aids are amazing
Modern hearing aids are quite astonishing in comparison to the devices available five or ten years ago. They deliver well, even in noisy and complex sound environments. But, hearing is not like sight and hearing aids are not like glasses. You cannot compare hearing aids to glasses. When you wear a pair of glasses for the first time, you see the difference straight away. With hearing aids you will see a huge difference but you will have to get used to hearing differently.
The initial period after the fitting of a hearing aid is generally called acclimatisation. Rehabilitation doesn't in fact start until after the initial period. The period of acclimatisation varies from user to user. When we first fit your hearing aids, we will not fit you with a full level of amplification to help correct your hearing. The reason is pretty simple, you wouldn't like it.
Over a period of time we will move you towards a full level of amplification for your loss. That period of time varies from user to user. In general I find that most users acclimatise to full prescription within six weeks. Again, that can vary. It can take up to four months for you to get accustomed to your hearing aids and be accepting of full levels of amplification. In fact, real rehabilitation only starts then.
In general I schedule an appointment with a new user three weeks after the initial fit. During that appointment I will begin to gather feedback on experiences. I will use that appointment to increase the level of amplification towards the prescription level. I will also check that the user has read the information I have given in relation to the hearing aids and can perform the cleaning and care.
A new hearing aid users secret weapon..... a notebook!
I will then schedule another appointment for three weeks time. This appointment is similar in nature to the initial follow up. However, at this appointment I will move the user to full amplification and explain what I want them to do for the next month or so. In essence what I want them to do is to start gathering information about how they are hearing. More importantly, how they would like to change that. I always advise people at this stage to start taking notes in a note book. Good observations written down at the time will always beat memory, this should be your secret weapon of choice!
The rehabilitation period can also vary by user. For some it is a couple of months, for some it is longer. I will often need to adjust the hearing aids several times during your rehabilitation period. The prescription levels of hearing aids are based on years of research to deliver what you need when you need it. However, sound is a very personal sense. In my experience it is rarely that someone ends up on exactly the prescription level.
Some want some more bass, some want some more treble. Like I said, it is a personal sense. This is a team effort, so do not be afraid to speak up. The greater amount of information you give me, the better we can make the hearing aids for you. When you first begin to use hearing aids, your brain will start to hear sounds that it has been missing.
You need time to get familiar with the high-frequency sounds of speech and environmental noises. Don't forget, you probably haven't heard them properly for years. Initially, your brain isn't sure what to do with them, but it learns quickly enough. Re-acclimating your brain to normal levels of sound, after years of hearing loss takes a little while.
Geoff....When I flush the toilet!!!!!!
Your perceptions of everyday sound will improve over time. At first, all sounds will seem loud. The common observations are that your clothes rustle as you move. Yes, they do. You can hear your feet on carpet, yes, I can to. Your footsteps on wooden floors are loud. Yes they are. Running water will give you a real fright and the news paper rustles when you change the pages. Yes and yes again. Welcome back to the world.
When your hearing was normal, you heard those sounds and just ignored them. Now that you are correcting your hearing loss, those sounds are almost new again. These sounds will become part of your subconscious again as your brain begins to reduce the focus on them.
When I see you after the initial acclimatisation visits I want you to go over your lifestyle and what you have done with your hearing aids. This will help me understand where there may be issues and the need for adjustments.
As you move through your rehabilitation period I will change and re-programme the hearing aids. For instance, I may add one or more sound programmes. These are programmes with fixed adjustments for certain situations. For instance I will probably add a music programme, music is different from speech and needs a different focus. So adding a specific music programme makes sense.
I also may add a programme for experimentation. If you talk about certain problems in certain situations, I will set up a programme specifically with that situation in mind where you can try it out and give me feedback. This allows me the info I need to make adjustments that are suitable. All of this happens over time, if I tried to sort all of this out at the start, it would be way too much to handle.
Hearing aids are a team sport!
A relationship with the professional
Like I said, hearing aids are a team sport, you need to be equally involved in the process. You need to have a good and ongoing dialogue with your audiologist. This is why the relationship between you and your professional needs to be good. The more information you tell them about your experience using hearing aids, the better they can change them to suit you. Fitting a hearing aid is an ongoing process. As you become more familiar with your hearing aid and how it works for you in different situations. You can give your Audiologist the information they need to make the hearing aids work better for you.
Before you attend your follow up visits it is important that you consider a few things. Be sure to note the sound quality of your hearing aid in different sound environments. Does it sound hollow? Is the sound too loud or soft? What sounds are too loud or soft? Is it soft sounds, medium sounds or loud sounds? Does the aid whistle? Do you use all of the programmes? Would you like a programme added because you think you will use it?
So, what's the main takeaway for you here? Hearing aids are a process, but they are a process worth sticking with. Find an Audiologist you get on with, because you and them are going have to work together. Be part of the process, take your notes, explore the power of your hearing aids. Congratulations on taking the big step, don't let it be in vain, understand the process and work with it.
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