(BPT) - 'Hearing aids aren't like glasses.' If you've already visited a hearing care professional, that's probably what you were told. When you put on a new pair of glasses, you immediately see everything like you used to, and as clearly as possible. For the first-time hearing aid wearer, however, things are very different. When you put on your new hearing aids, some things sound better, but others may not sound the way you'd expect.
So why does this happen? Hearing loss usually comes on gradually and unnoticed. We hear with our brains, and over time, our brains adjust to having reduced hearing. As a result, we forget how certain things are supposed to sound. With new hearing aids, we hear sounds again our brains have forgotten. As a result, common sounds may seem unusually loud or shrill at first. This is a completely normal part of adapting to new hearing aids. The good news is, you can expedite the process of retraining your brain how to hear.
Have realistic expectations
The right attitude is everything, so it's essential to have realistic expectations. It's rare to love your hearing aids the moment they're switched on because you need time to retrain your brain. Just as you can't run a marathon on the first day you take up running, retraining your brain to hear takes time and commitment.
Commit to it
Wear your new hearing aids as long as possible during waking hours. Savor those moments when you once again hear those things in life you forgot existed. Expose yourself to all the different listening situations in which you typically participate. For example, if you're an avid golfer, make sure you try a round wearing your new hearing aids. Not only will you experience how things will sound on the course, if something doesn't sound quite right, you can inform your hearing care professional about it at your next follow-up appointment.
Keep a listening journal
As you remove and clean your hearing aids every evening, think about your day and jot down your listening experiences. What sounded unnatural, unexpected or uncomfortable? Did making certain adjustments, such as program or volume change, help? Did any problems or questions surface during the day that you want to take to your hearing care professional? As you list the concerns, don't forget to also write down the positives. Which listening situations did you particularly enjoy? Did you hear something you haven't heard for a long time? As the days go by, patterns and trends will emerge from your journal entries that can help your hearing care professional fine-tune your hearing aid settings during your next follow-up visit. You may also find as you become more experienced with your new hearing aids, the challenges become fewer and fewer.
Consider auditory training
Beyond simply wearing the hearing aids as much as possible, auditory training is proven to expedite the initial adjustment period. These dedicated listening exercises are designed to fine-tune your sense of hearing with your new hearing aids. Some hearing care professionals and speech pathologists provide one-on-one or small group auditory training sessions that meet on a regular basis. But perhaps the most convenient and least expensive auditory training are computer programs in the form of DVDs. These auditory training programs contain interactive listening exercises you can complete in the comfort of your own home, at your own pace and at your convenience.
Smart hearing aids can help
New smart hearing aids also have features that can help make the adjustment process easier. For example, the amount of amplification you actually need may seem too loud for you at the beginning. Smart hearing aids feature 'automatic acclimatization,' which lets you hear at a level that you're most comfortable with at the beginning and, over time, gradually increase amplification settings to a sound level that provides you with the most benefit. Smart hearing aids can also 'learn' your listening preferences over time. Your hearing care professional will decide if features such as automatic acclimatization and learning can help you.