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When the Hearing Aid is in the Drawer.

No matter how great hearing aids are, they can’t help anyone when gathering dust in a drawer not being used. Here’s a look at three situations where people have tried – but given up on – their hearing aids, and how those frustrations could have been avoided.

Wary At Work

George is in his late 50s and has finally purchased a pair of hearing aids, something his wife has been trying to get him to do for almost three years. His first week at work wearing his aids ends with George completely frustrated — and his hearing aids in the drawer! When George’s wife asks what happened, he gets defensive and describes his experience. Sounds were too loud; the hearing aids were uncomfortable to wear; they didn’t help him hear in meetings; and he’s sure that people were staring and talking about him behind his back. Worst of all, he’s afraid he’ll be seen as “over the hill,” and never receive another raise.

Get Fit (or Refit)

Find a good fitter to make sure that your hearing aids are comfortable, and meet your specific needs. In a recent study by Consumer Reports, two-thirds of hearing aids provided to customers were not fit well.1 Properly fitted hearing instruments need to not only be the right size, but also calibrated and amplified for your specific needs. If your first fit isn’t right, make another appointment with your hearing care specialist. Your fitter is as interested as you are in making sure you find hearing success.

Be Realistic

Unlike eyeglasses, which can produce instant results, it takes time to adjust to hearing aids. Remember, your brain is being asked to process sounds it hasn’t heard in a long time – or ever. Be patient and give yourself at least six to eight weeks to acclimate. Your patience just may pay off. According to one study, sticking with hearing aids eventually led to higher hearing satisfaction in nearly 75 percent of users.2

Increase Your Potential Earnings

A 2005 study, conducted by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI), found that people with unaddressed hearing loss make less money per year, than people with normal hearing. The key word here is unaddressed hearing loss. The study found a difference of up to $23,000 per year!3

 

Avoiding “Awkward”

Cassie is a typical teenager. She spends her days (and nights) with her cell phone wedged in her hand, texting about everything from boys to bands. Texting is her preferred method of communication, since most of the time at school her friends are all talking so fast (and at the same time) that she misses what people are saying. She’s so afraid of being “different” that she finds herself staying out of crowds and hectic social situations to avoid “awkward.”

Even though Cassie has moderate-to-severe hearing loss in one ear, and a hearing aid to compensate, the teen won’t be caught dead wearing it – despite the hair-thin tube that is almost invisible. She’s sure everyone will notice, resulting in the “end of her social life.”

Super Size Your Social Life

More than half the participants in a recent poll say that their relationships and social life improved significantly as a result of hearing aids.4 The truth is that hearing and interacting more successfully with others may not only improve your social life, but also allow you to be who you are, and do what you love.

Embrace Technology

In today’s world, there are earpieces and personal electronic accessories galore. With the advent of Bluetooth wireless headsets, more and more people are walking around with something in their ears. The net result is that others may not even notice the hair-thin tubing of a mini behind-the-ear hearing aid. If they do happen to notice, they probably won’t care. In fact, they might even think it’s cool.

Gain Confidence

Hearing better can actually make you feel better about yourself. A 2010 BHI survey showed that 4 out of 10 respondents felt a boost in self-confidence and independence when wearing their hearing aids.5

 

Too Much Fuss

For Rick, the issue with his hearing aids isn’t cosmetic; it’s technical. He spends time fidgeting and fussing with them, and notices almost no difference in his hearing. “It’s just more trouble than it’s worth,” he explains, “Besides I get along fine without them.”

Being a no-nonsense guy, Rick went to the first fitter that he found. He didn’t ask about the fitter’s experience, provide detailed information about his own specific hearing challenges, or research the different brands and features available on the market. Basically, he didn’t fully participate in the fitting process, which can lead to an unhappy ending.

Find a Pro

Finding the right hearing solution depends on a number of important variables, beginning with your hearing care professional. Work with an expert who determines your lifestyle and listening needs, and then matches the technology to meet those needs. Once you’ve found that hearing care partner and have selected your technology, establish a schedule of follow-up visits to make sure that your devices are addressing your needs, and that you have a successful fit.

Know the Market

Features like adaptive directional microphones and feedback suppression can make a tremendous difference in hearing results. Directional microphones are useful in noisy environments. They tend to pick up speech or the primary source of interest and reduce competing sounds, making conversation much easier. Today’s hearing aids also include automatic feedback suppression, which greatly reduces the chances of high-pitched feedback or whistling. Remember, many fitters carry just a few brands, making it a good idea to look around at what else is available on the market. You can then discuss what you’ve found with your hearing care professional. Doing so will help ensure that you’re making the right choice for your individual needs.

Get Ready to Reconnect

In a recent study, half of hearing aid users said that their hearing aids improved their relationships, and one-third of the respondents even saw improvements in their romantic lives.6

Whatever your reason may be for not using your hearing aids, the truth is that you’re missing the chance to fully connect. Whether it’s details on the big project in the office, the latest gossip in a classroom hallway, or a heartfelt moment with your significant other, hearing is a critical part of your daily life.

You may try to convince yourself and others in your life that you’re doing fine without hearing well, but the truth is that situations can slowly deteriorate without your knowing it, leading to increased frustration and social isolation.

Ready to get back into life at full volume? The first thing to do is be honest about why you’re not wearing your hearing aids. Then, come up with a realistic solution, set goals, and reward yourself for reaching them. Who knows? The sounds you recapture may very well become rewards in themselves!

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Am I speaking too loud when wearing my new hearing aids?

For the first-time hearing aid user, there’s a common issue everyone faces, and that is adjusting to the sound and volume of your own voice as heard through the hearing aids.

Learning how to adjust the volume of your voice in different situations can be tricky. Here are some tips to help you understand and manage the issue.

Hearing your own voice with hearing aids

When your hearing aids are switched on and you speak for the first time, your own voice may sound strange to you. It may sound tinny, or hollow, or have a booming quality that you don’t recognize.  If this happens, talk to your audiologist and explain how your voice sounds. They may be able to make some immediate adjustments to make your voice sound more natural. After a settling in period, you should hopefully start to become used to the sound quality of your hearing aids. This includes hearing your own voice through the hearing devices. But, if you’re still not happy with the sound of your own voice, try and see your hearing care professional again and ask for more adjustments.

Perception of noise with hearing loss

According to this article on Audiology Online, It takes an average of seven years for most adults with a gradual hearing loss to get hearing aids. When hearing has been lost gradually, it’s easy to be largely unaware of some sounds that can no longer be heard. Hearing aids pick up and amplify a large range of sounds of which the first-time user will suddenly become aware; many they may not have heard in years. For this reason, new users may complain that ‘everything is too loud’. Some sounds may be instantly recognizable – a knock at the door, a phone ringing – others may take to distinguish – a kettle boiling, a tap running. These sounds may sound almost unbearable at first and we may feel the need to compensate (for our perception of being in a noisy environment) by speaking more loudly. Sometimes we may be speaking unnecessarily loudly. When I first started using hearing aids, I found the noise of the extractor on my cooker hood almost deafening. I would shout to make myself heard above the din, but to my husband, who was used to the sound and to tuning it out, I was speaking louder than was necessary.

Gaining and insight

If you have a close friend or family member who is willing to help you work on your volume control, you could give them an insight into the issues you’re facing by asking them to wear ear defenders or ear plugs whilst having a conversation with you. Video the conversation and then play it back to them. They will then be able to judge for themselves how much louder they were speaking when their hearing was temporarily impaired and they couldn’t hear their own voice normally. Keep in mind that whether we have hearing loss or not, we all tend to increase the loudness of our voice as our perception of the background noise around us increases. The more background noise in a bar or restaurant, the more we will speak up in order to be heard. Gauging how loudly we’re speaking over what we hear as background noise can sometimes seem like a fine art. Like most things, getting it right takes practice. Read more: “Sound” is relative when you have hearing loss

Tips for managing your voice’s volume

  1. Talk to your hearing care provider. They can adjust the programming of how you hear your own voice. It may be that as you adjust to using hearing aids, you may need a few programming tweaks.
  2. If your hearing aids have a volume setting, turn down the volume of the background noise is making you feel as though you need to shout to be heard. This will reduce your perception of overall background noise, so you won’t feel you have to shout over it.
  3. Do your hearing aids have the capacity for different program settings e.g. ‘speech in noise’, ‘echoey places’? Ask your audiologist to add additional programmes relevant to the type of setting in which you’re struggling to hear yourself speak.
  4. Is your model of hearing aid compatible with a remote control? A remote can be great for discreetly changing programs or increasing or decreasing volume.
  5. Practice speaking with a trusted friend in a variety of environments and ask for their feedback. Get an idea of which program, and voice volume, work best for you and your companions.
  6. Use a decibel measuring app to get a visual representation and measurement of how loudly you are speaking in different settings. Check with your trusted friend which volume they would recommend. Then, practice speaking at that volume at home.
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A year on my hearing loss journey

My hearing loss journey started a little over a year ago and I can’t believe the ups and downs I went through to get to where I am today.

Going from having normal hearing all your life to suddenly losing it, is an experience that is only relatable if you have gone through it. Even if it is just a small loss, the effects of the experience of learning about your hearing loss, getting fit with hearing aids and readjusting back to normal life are significant.

Here is a glimpse of my transformation over the full year. You will be able to see how my attitude has changed and what it took for me to accept my hearing loss.

The beginning months

September

My initial experience with hearing loss was years of stressing over my vain attempts at keeping up with conversations, trying to catch mumbling television dialogue and listening to songs not sounding like they used to. This becomes tiring and I am persuaded to take a hearing test.

My first idea is to first an online hearing test because it is so easy. I failed the test. Instantly I thought ‘the result is wrong’ as I read the results telling me to consult a doctor to arrange a referral to an audiologist.

I am in disbelief and take the test a second time. This time I use headphones instead of pc speakers. The same result popped on my screen. My wife smiled at me gently and mentioned that even with my headphones on, she could still hear me missing many sounds.

I am not pleased and agree to take the test one last time. The result is exactly the same. I phone my GP and make an appointment.

My first appointment

Two weeks later and I’m talking to my family doctor and she is smiling and nodding and telling me not to worry, because I don’t seem to have any problem with my hearing. This is a huge relief. She does tell me that as I do have a build-up of wax, she will arrange for a nurse to remove this and then all will be back to normal once more.

Now that my ears are clear of wax, the nurse told me that she could clearly see the eardrum in both ears, I am wondering why there seems to be some kind of deadening to my hearing, as though I had foam earplugs in.

Another couple of days passes and I am back to my old habits of missing conversation and having the TV volume on high. I telephone the surgery and ask to speak to my doctor.

She is really nice and explains that my hearing must be fine if I am able to have a phone conversation. This makes me frustrated and I ask her to refer me to a formal hearing test. She verbally fences with me for several more minutes and then gives in. With a sigh, she says I will be hearing from the hospital soon.

October

When I go to my audiology appointment, I fully expect them to find a slight problem with one of my ears. I assume that they will not be able to help, but at least I will know for certain.

At the hospital audiology department, I am surprised by the fact that I am taken care of by an obviously deaf student audiologist. I feel slightly uneasy because I am not prepared and feel unsure of how to talk to her. She is so nice and appears to understand my answers to her questions perfectly. She has a deaf accent and I suddenly feel a fraud.

Part of me wishes that I’d listened to my doctor and not insisted on the appointment. Here, right in front of me, is a genuine person with hearing issues. I feel ashamed and can’t wait for the tests to be over, so I can go home.

After the tests, I am shocked to be told that I have hearing loss in both ears and will require two hearing aids. I sit there stunned, listening to my audiologist explaining that my life will not be the same again.

The workings of my hearing aids are explained to me making me feel a little reassured that they are so small, but I feel scared at the idea of having to wear these alien devices in my ears for the rest of my life.

“I feel scared at the idea of having to wear these alien devices in my ears for the rest of my life.”

My hearing aid fitting appointment isn’t for six weeks, which makes me frustrated again. I go through various moods and later discover that this is, in fact, a grieving process, for the loss of my hearing.

To find out more information I started consulting doctor Google and search websites and forums for answers. I find the usual, the good, the bad and the indifferent. Yes, there are a number of success stories, but there is also a plethora of horror stories as well. At this time I also discover Hearing Like Me and begin to see a far more optimistic future.

“At this time I also discover Hearing Like Me and begin to see a far more optimistic future.”

I watch endless YouTube videos and soon have a pretty good understanding of different hearing aids, hearing loss and deafness. Even though I am learning so much, I still feel depressed, as I await the fitting of my new aids. They still feel like something of a prison sentence, waiting to be carried out.

November

I meet the audiologist that fit my hearing aids and he took me by surprise. We have music in common, both having been in bands. I feel better and he explains that my new aids should help to give me access to the missing areas of my hearing. I have mild to moderate loss in both ears. Although it doesn’t sound much, it is significant. The aids feel odd and uncomfortable. They’re plugged into a computer and various sounds come through them and into my ears. One test is where he screws up a piece of paper and to my ears, it sounds as though he were smashing a metal tea tray on his desk.

Later on, I leave with my new silver aids. In the case, not my ears, having been warned not to wear them in the street, until I get used to them. I am to try them in short doses at first. On the way home I go into a coffee shop and decide to try out my hearing aids.

The noise is very loud. My aids have automatic volumes and so I’m stuck with the sheer volume of noise. I can hear conversations from tables away, but struggle to hear my wife’s voice, over the coffee making machines. All the sounds seem to be misplaced. The coffee machines sounded like they were on our table, instead of behind the counter and across the far wall.

I decided there and then to keep them in. I will get used to them. After all, the idea is for them to help me hear. They can’t do that sitting in a case.

“I decided there and then to keep them in. I will get used to them.”

Back home, things are noisy, but fun. Voices sound metallic and unreal. I’m told that this will take about three weeks for my brain to adjust to the new sounds. I decide that it should be shorter for me, as I’m now wearing my aids all the time, only taking them out to sleep and shower.

The television gets turned down. In fact, the normal volume now sounds a little loud. I can even hear the characters whisper and breathe. The direction sounds come from is different particularly in the street. It is slightly alarming, to begin with, as I can’t quite tell where the sounds of cars are coming from when crossing roads.

An optimistic new future with hearing aids

December

I rediscover music, once more picking up my guitar. No longer do my guitar strings sound off, nor my voice slightly off-key. In fact, my music is now better than it’s been in years. The same happens with favorite albums because suddenly I’m hearing songs, as though for the first time and this is so good.

“In fact, my music is now better than it’s been in years.”

Read more: How hearing aids helped me rediscover my love for music

January

I joined a hearing loss charity, which pushed me to begin my acceptance of my hearing loss. Also, accepting that I am now a member of the deaf community, even if it is only on the outer circle. I became determined to learn more and hopefully do more, but unsure of what, when or how.

February

Getting used to my hearing aids was going well. I was finding that at times I forgot I even have a hearing problem. I realize that I am one of the lucky ones, in that my aids suit me perfectly and compensate very well for my hearing loss challenges, most of the time.

March/April/May

The weeks run into months, as I enjoy life again. Thanks to my hearing aids! I find that during this time my confidence soars and I feel able to live my life to the full.

June

I join another charity, Hearing Link. Their focus is on hearing loss rather than deafness. I find that I really identify with the charities aims and set to learning all I can from their very informative website.

July/ August

Hearing Link’s volunteering opportunities stand out to me and I begin to really consider if I could offer anything to them and to hearing loss suffers in general. I decide to take the plunge and offer the charity my services. I begin to feel good about my hearing loss.

September

I become a Phonak hEARo and start to write articles for Hearing Like Me. This now gives me a voice and allows me to offer my own experiences to others in similar situations.

“This now gives me a voice and allows me to offer my own experiences to others in similar situations.”

I have focused on just a twelve month period, but have recently gone on to more advocacy work. This includes being a part of a local disabilities forum and providing a voice for the hearing loss community within my own area. I personally have found wearing hearing aids to have added greatly to my life and am honestly happier these days. The secret if there is one, is to embrace the experience, rather than fight it. After all, it is still a beautiful world.

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Do small hearing aids risk making hearing loss an invisible subject?

A large part of the stigma of hearing loss is centered around the wearing of hearing aids. Therefore, with the constant advances in hearing aid technology and electronic miniaturization, the visible element is fast becoming a thing of the past.

This is a good thing, right? Well, yes, and no. Let me explain.

The modern digital hearing aid is an amazing device and is often difficult to see. This gives confidence to the wearer and allows them to interact with hearing people on seemingly equal terms.

The only thing wrong with this way of thinking is that both, the hearing person and the hearing loss sufferer can be at a disadvantage during their interaction.

When we go about our daily lives, we depend on visual signs to keep us informed of changes in our environment. These can be large, such as signposts, traffic lights and maps, or much smaller subtle, clues. If there isn’t a sign that a person is deaf or hard of hearing, it can be a disadvantage to both communicators.

All things are not always equal

There is a general assumption with the majority of the hearing population – and yes, this includes the majority of those in the medical and allied professions – that goes something like this: a person suffering from hearing loss requires a hearing aid in order to once more become a member of the hearing community.

Anyone who wears a hearing aid will have first-hand knowledge that this assumption falls far short of the mark. Once a person has hearing loss, they become to a certain degree, deaf.

Hearing aids do not restore hearing, but instead, enhance the hearing of those who wear them. They do not restore or replace that loss.

But, isn’t less more?

Well, in this case, yes, and no. If someone is aware that a person they’re speaking to has a hearing loss, it can be useful. Yes, there is that tendency to shout and over-emphasize words and meanings more than a little, but at least they are aware.

Some deaf/hard of hearing people choose to wear a “badge of honor” stating their condition, as they find it can help. Still, others much prefer to go unnoticed, where possible.

Read more: Jewelry line aims to inspire confidence for those with hearing loss

To an extent, the smaller the hearing aid becomes, the less control remains in the hands of the wearer, as to whether they choose to be open about their hearing loss or not.

“The smaller the hearing aid becomes, the less control remains in the hands of the wearer, as to whether they choose to be open about their hearing loss or not.”

When we look back a mere 40 years or so, we see hearing aid technology that was not only primitive in the extreme but also very unattractive. Back then, people tended to have a far less enlightened view of those with hearing loss, and as the years have gone by, so understanding has replaced prejudice in most areas.

Read more: 3 Hearing Challenges Solved with Titanium Hearing Aids

How can hearing loss stay visible?

It would be nothing short of foolish to wish for the past, but in order to truly benefit from all the future can offer us in the realms of hearing aid tech, there might just be a very real need for proactive hearing aid wearers in order to remain on the hearing radar.

Surely finding a happy medium has to be able to offer a win, win for all those who struggle with both hearing loss and the stigma all too often associated with it.

The answer could be as simple as having a choice. Being able to wear an aid so small that it goes unnoticed can help avoid prejudice and bias with the choice of telling those that need to know about the hearing loss. Making this choice puts power in the hands of the hearing aid wearer and how visible they choose to have their hearing loss.

“Making this choice puts power in the hands of the hearing aid wearer and how visible they choose to have their hearing loss.”

Badges are one perfect method of offering one solution to this. As mentioned earlier these can be worn to show others any needs or differences in normal interaction and conversation the wearer might require.

A great tip is to wear a badge underneath a coat or shirt collar. This can then be simply turned in order to show another that there is a need to face them, when speaking, for lip reading, or simply that the other person has a hearing loss issue.

This is a discreet way of being in total control of who knows about your hearing loss and stops unnecessary bias, whether in a workplace situation or a social one.

Technology is not going to recede into the past, and now is the time to make certain that as a person with hearing loss and a hearing aid wearer, that the wearer and not the device is in total charge.

Read more: How to feel more confident with your hearing loss

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Solutions for single-sided hearing loss

What do you do when you have hearing loss in one ear and good hearing in the other? Do you use a combination of positioning strategies and lipreading or, do you consider getting a hearing aid – or two?

I recently wrote a post about the jargon and solutions relating to single-sided hearing or, to give it its more complex title, ‘profound unilateral hearing loss’: the state of having no hearing in one ear but some degree of hearing in the other. That sparked questions about ‘unilateral hearing loss’, where someone has mild to severe hearing loss in one ear and normal hearing in the other.

So, what do you do if you have single-sided hearing loss?

Solutions for single-sided hearing loss

Some people with hearing loss in one ear and good hearing in the other, may choose to manage without the use of a hearing aid. They may learn to lipread, or they might employ coping strategies such as ensuring that others’ faces are not in shadow whilst they are speaking to you, is also a good tip. (If someone sits with their back to the window on a bright day, their face will be in shadow and it will be more difficult to lipread them.)

Another useful strategy is to arrive early to meetings and family gatherings in order to get your preferred seat – the one which puts the majority of people on your ‘good’ side so you’ll increase the chances of hearing what’s said.

But, whilst all these techniques help to a degree, there will be times when they just aren’t enough. For example, if you hear your passenger clearly whilst driving, you’re likely not to be able to hear the driver when you’re the passenger or vice versa (depending upon which is your ‘good’ ear).

If you are frequently in situations where you struggle to hear what’s being said, that’s when exploring the option of amplification may start to seem like a good idea.

Personal amplifying apps

As a first step, some people may choose to experiment with a range of personal amplifying apps for their mobile phone. These involve utilising the phone’s microphone and relaying amplified sound to the user via headphones. Some apps may have settings for tone, or to cut out background noise. Ear Booster incorporates an equalizer and a noise-suppressor. In addition to its ‘near’ and ‘far’ options, HearYouNow also allows the user to replay the last 20 seconds of conversation if they have missed something. (However, in playing it back, I worry that the user is likely to then miss the next 20 seconds of conversation…)

Hearing tests

If you’ve seen a benefit in using an amplifying app, you may realise that, while it helps, it’s not always practical to use it in all situations and you may start thinking that a discreet hearing aid would be better.

Before booking a hearing test with an audiologist, many people choose to test their hearing remotely. While there’s no replacement for professional hearing tests and a consultation with a hearing care expert, the Phonak online hearing screening can provide some quick and useful feedback about your hearing. However, in order to find out how a hearing aid might help you, you will need to see a hearing care professional.

Hearing Aids

Like everything from pizza toppings to salad dressings, in the world of hearing aids, there is so much choice. You’ll be expected to make decisions on things you have never before considered so, to take away the fear-factor, here’s a simple guide to different types of hearing aids and fittings.

1. In-the-canal – extended wear

Once fitted deep into the ear canal by a professional, the Lyric™ cannot be seen. It remains in the ear for several months at a time and is a perfectly discreet solution.

2. In-the-canal – daily wear

Each in-the-canal aid is custom made to sit inside the wearer’s ear canal. Virto™ B

3. In-the-ear

Each in-the-ear aid is custom-made to fit an individual ear. They come in different sizes. Some are tiny, others, for people who need more amplification, are a little larger to take a more powerful battery. Volume control, program button, and Telecoil are optional.  Virto™ B

4. Behind-the-ear (BTE)

The hearing aid sits behind the ear. Like the microphones, the receiver is built into the hearing aid. Behind the ear devices are available in a wide range of colours from muted tones to match hair coloring to bright red, and they come with a choice of fittings:

  • BTE with earmould – The custom-made earmould fits into the ear and is connected to the hearing aid via a tube. An example is the Bolero™ B.
  • BTE with open fit – A flexible dome fits into the ear, connected by a slim wire.

5. Receiver-in-the-ear (RIC)

Confusingly, unlike the name implies, the hearing aid still looks like a behind-the-ear aid and it does indeed sit behind the ear. However, the devices tend to be smaller than BTEs (because they don’t house the receiver). The receiver fits into the ear canal via a thin wire and it is protected by a flexible dome. (This is for people who need more amplification than is possible with an open fitting.) An example of this is the Audéo™ B.

Why have I been told I need two hearing aids?

Single-sided hearing loss solutions

When you see your audiologist, despite only having hearing loss in one ear, they may advise that you would benefit from having two hearing aids. They are not saying this because they are after your money! Generally speaking, people benefit from having a hearing aid in each ear because:

  • It helps you locate the source of a sound more readily
  • It helps with understanding speech in background noise
  • Having your hearing balanced with hearing aids will mean less ‘listening-related fatigue’.

Next steps

Once you have had your hearing test with a hearing care professional, and have had the chance to see and handle some model hearing aids, you should be in a better position to know which kind of device is best for you. We wish you the best of luck in finding your ideal solution.