Published 2011-04-28 -- Many people who experience a hearing impairment find that upon receiving hearing aids the experience is a new one.
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Something that is being more difficult as I learn to use these new hearing aids is figuring out where a particular sound came from.
Many people who experience a hearing impairment find that upon receiving hearing aids the experience is a new one in a number of ways. From small sounds such as the creaking of stairs to larger ones, hearing aids can take some time to adjust to. After living a life that has been subdued or silent from a sound perspective for a number of years, these small assistive devices are now reminding me that there are more sounds in the world than I had remembered.
An audiologist usually informs people about the adjustment period related to a first experience with hearing aids. The one's I have been working with told me it would take approximately three weeks to adjust to them. There were a number of suggestions the audiologists provided.
One of them is to first talk with only one person at a time. Trying to talk with more than one person at once might be confusing, or difficult to understand. After getting used to the sound of another person speaking, as well as the sound of my own voice, attempting to have a conversation with more than one other person is definitely on the table. At this time the television sounds pretty strange, although I can hear it more clearly. Perhaps in a few days I will have adjusted to the sounds it makes. Real people, on the other hand, are there in the room with you and their voices are not being presented over an electronic medium.
My own voice is new to me, even after having it for all of these years. The strangeness of my own voice is something that can be overcome by reading a book or article aloud so my own voice becomes familiar once again. It is also good practice to do this with the people you are closest to, having the other person stop on occasion and ask you to repeat the last thing they said or read.
Increasing the number of places and situations where I use the hearing aids I find myself with is also important. After adjusting to them as well as possible at home, places such as theaters, grocery stores, and other public places can further help with adjusting to the use of hearing aids. The suggestion made by the audiologists was to turn the volume down on the hearing aids when doing this at first, returning to the sound level I am accustomed to at home over time.
One hearing aids I have is color-coded blue, while the other has a red dot on it. Many hearing aids are just the same for people who use two hearing aids so we can identify which one goes in the appropriate ear. Another way to tell, if you have behind-the-ear aids, is to examine which way the tube into your ear is bent. After taking the hearing aids out of my ears for the first time I noticed that my hearing was once again subdued and rather well - 'like cotton was in my ears.' Apparently this was to be expected and is actually a sign that I am adjusting to the hearing aids.
Attempting to wear the magnificent hearing aids that have restored sound to my life longer than is comfortable is apparently a, 'no-no.' Should you become tired after using new hearing aids after a while - take them out and relax for a bit. Trust the way you feel. After a few weeks you will start wearing them more often. Straining to hear another person's every word can be tiring; instead - listen closely and concentrate on what they have said but again, take a break when you need to.
The honking of a car horn was one of the concerns I had; would it startle me? Loud sounds were very much on my mind because I didn't know how I would react. The suggestion for this is to listen to a television or radio at home, gradually turning up the volume until the sound level is rather loud. Once the sound level becomes uncomfortable, slowly turn the sound level down to where it is comfortable. After practicing this procedure for a period of time, you are supposed to find that your comfort level with loud sounds has increased.
Background noises are kind of a bummer right now, but from what I understand a lot of people with average hearing don't like them either. People learn to ignore a lot of background noises with time and learning to discriminate between a yammering politician on television and the voice of the one you love will become easier. The loud car in the parking lot won't be as much of annoyance, given time.
Something that is being more difficult as I learn to use these new hearing aids is figuring out where a particular sound came from. The audiologist told me that I can sit in a chair, close my eyes and listen to different sounds in the room, identifying where in the room they are coming from and what they are. Doing so helps with, 'localization,' or finding out where a sound is coming from.
What about people who do not speak in the same way that I do, such as people from other nations, or people with speech impairments? From what the audiologists tell me, it is important to ask people to speak a bit more slowly if needed, and to watch their lips as they speak as I listen for any differences in similar words. Then it becomes important to attempt to make out the person's words simply by listening.
Through all of this, lip reading is a very good thing. It is something that helps with communication and others. It is an important supplement to using hearing aids and while it does have its limitations; lip reading in conjunction with the use of hearing aids is clearly better than one or the other.
Before I even left the audiologists' offices, they had me attempt to listen to a message on a telephone to see how I would do. The message was something I could hear better than a lot of people I have tried to talk to on the phone before, but it still sounded really, 'canned,' and, 'tinny.' It is going to take some time, according to the audiologists, but hearing and understanding people on a telephone is going to improve they said.
Quite a bit of learning, exercises, and practice. All of it is worthwhile and should help with adjusting to new hearing aids. At some point in the next several weeks, perhaps they will not seem as new and will be more familiar.
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