Most people know someone with hearing aids- and many of us also know someone who has been unsuccessful with their hearing aids. They might be uncomfortable, unhelpful in certain situations, or they might not be worn at all! If you think you might need hearing aids, what can you do to be sure that you are successful with them? Here are 7 tips for successful hearing aid fitting.
1. Find a qualified professional that you can trust
Hearing aids are not ‘one-size-fits-all’. As such, the role of the hearing healthcare professional like an audiologist is crucial. Your audiologist will help you through the various stages of hearing aid fitting and will provide valuable input about which hearing aids are the best for you and your needs. They also have the skill, experience, and equipment to fit, verify, and fine-tune your hearing aids to ensure that they are giving you the best possible benefit. In these modern times, some people believe that you can purchase hearing aids online. This is a recipe for an unsuccessful hearing aid fitting, as it removes the experience and skill of a qualified professional to guide and assist you. If you can, try to see an independent audiologist who is not contracted to any specific manufacturer- this will ensure that they can offer you a full range of options.
2. Have a full diagnostic hearing assessment
This step is essential to ensure a successful hearing aid fitting. Hearing aid recommendations and fitting prescriptions are all based on the results of your hearing assessment. Yes, some people may fit hearing aids based on limited results, but this will usually lead to a poor fit or an inappropriate hearing aid choice for that individual. At minimum, a first hearing assessment should include otoscopy, pure tone audiometry (air and bone conduction), full speech audiometry, and immittance measures, and may also include a speech in noise assessment. Click here to find out what a full diagnostic hearing assessment entails.
3. Be open and honest about your needs
Your audiologist will use your hearing test results as a starting point when they are recommending the right hearing aid for you. But almost equally important is the information that you share about your hearing experiences and lifestyle needs. You may have a fairly straightforward hearing loss, but if you are someone who needs to be in dynamic sound environments such as cocktail parties, board meetings, or music recording sessions, you may need more advanced hearing aid technology. Likewise, sharing practical information with your audiologist such as any signs of dexterity or sensation issues in your hands, or changes in your near vision, will help them to avoid hearing aids that might be difficult for you to handle or see in the future. If you are someone who lives on the phone, you might need hearing aids that have Bluetooth streaming capabilities. Share your needs openly with your audiologist as this will help them make the best recommendation for you.
4. Have realistic expectations
While hearing aids are amazing and advanced, and can change a person’s life, they are ultimately still just hearing ‘aids’. They are not a replacement for normal hearing. For this reason, even if you wear the best hearing aids on the market, you might still have some difficulty in environments with a lot of background noise or in big groups. In addition, being realistic about the technology level that you are purchasing is important. If you were only able to purchase mid-range hearing aids when you hearing loss and lifestyle suggested you need higher-end technology, you need to be aware that they might require more input from you, or might not be able to separate speech and noise the way you would like them to. Speak to your audiologist about what you can and cannot reasonably expect from the hearing aids they have recommended, and be aware that while they will help you dramatically, you are still a person with hearing loss, and may still have difficulty in some environments. In addition, be realistic about the adaptation phase. It takes some time to get used to new hearing aids, and over time you may find the benefit that you receive from them in complex situations improves as your brain adjusts.
5. Commit to wearing the hearing aids consistently
When getting new hearing aids, especially if you are a new hearing aid user, one of the most important things is wearing them consistently. Hearing aids are designed to be worn from when you wake up in the morning to when you go to sleep at night. The more you wear the hearing aids, the faster the brain will adjust, and the better the benefit you will receive. Those who only wear their hearing aids when they are in a complex sound environment like a restaurant or large group will find that they struggle because their brains are not adjusted to the hearing aids in a quite environment- how can we expect them to be adjusted to the hearing aids in a noisy environment? If you are feeling overwhelmed, rather take the hearing aids out for a 20 minute break- but put them back in! Remember, your brain hasn’t heard many of the sounds around you properly for some time, and it takes commitment and constant wear to allow it to adapt.
6. Share your experiences frankly
When you see your audiologist for your follow up appointments, share your experiences honestly. While we all love to hear that a patient is extremely happy, realistically most new hearing aids require some fine-tuning and adjustment once the worst of the adjustment phase is over. If you don’t tell us what’s wrong, we can’t help- so tell us what works and what doesn’t work. We can advise you which things require time, and which things can be tweaked to give you a better outcome. Don’t give up- many small issues with hearing aids can be resolved with a small adjustment.
7. Go back to your audiologist
This point has two parts- go back to your audiologist during your follow up period so that they can fine tune and adjust the hearing aids based on your experiences (see point 6 above!), and also remember to go back to your audiologist regularly to check your ears and hearing. The gold standard is annual retests and fine tuning, but we recommend doing it at least every 2 years. Your hearing thresholds and needs can change, so it’s important to have your hearing aid settings updated accordingly. Your audiologist will retest your hearing and tweak your hearing aid settings should anything have changed since your last appointment. They will also listen to your hearing aids, and may recommend a service if this hasn’t already been done. This is how we ensure that your hearing aids are always working at their best for you.
These tips will help you be as successful as possible with your new hearing aids. Working with the right professional, getting the right instruments, and doing your bit by wearing the hearing aids and returning for fine tuning and retests will set you up to always get the best possible result. If you’d like more information about hearing aid fitting, or if you’d like to discuss hearing testing or hearing aids with one of our audiologists, contact us, or comment below and we’ll get back to you.