By Susanna Løve, MA, Au.D., Director of Audiology, Oticon
How to get more out of your hearing aids
Being a new hearing aid user is both wonderful and challenging. You now have access to new sounds, but you are also getting used to a different way of using your hearing sense. You may be going out of your comfort zone a little bit – going from being very familiar with what the world sounds like, to relearning that the world has more sound than your brain is used to getting. In this transition, it really helps to know what you can expect from your hearing care professional in your hearing rehabilitation journey.
A feeling of trust and partnership between you and your hearing care professional is the most important aspect of successful hearing care! Are they listening to your concerns and taking the time to address them? The hearing care professional should have a professional and structured approach to treating your hearing loss. If hearing aids are the appropriate choice, which is the case for most hearing losses, they must know the product they are recommending well and then they can more easily adjust the hearing aid to match your needs.
In many countries there are protocols in place for how to ideally give hearing care, and the hearing care professional is encouraged to follow them. They are called ‘best practices’. They act as guidelines for how hearing aids should be fitted and adjusted and what the hearing care professional should inform the client about so they have the necessary knowledge when they get home.
Here are some examples of common best practices:
You should start with a complete audiological evaluation of your hearing ability. This could include a thorough case history assessment, an ear examination, testing in a sound booth with pure tones, word recognition and repetition, as well as a test to evaluate how well you hear speech in background noise. Your hearing care professional uses this information to know whether you are ready for treatment, or whether you need to be seen by a general practitioner or a specialist first. These are used to fit a hearing aid to your exact audiological needs.
A personal plan for your hearing loss
Ask your hearing care professional if they will use a questionnaire to understand your needs and assess your progress before, during, and after treatment. Together, you can create a treatment plan that includes your personal goals for what you want to achieve with treatment. Afterwards, you’ll evaluate if you reached the goal or not and discuss what it will take to get there. With hearing loss, a hearing aid rarely provides a simple correction, like a lot of eyeglasses do. This is why it is more complicated to fit and adjust a hearing aid and why it is very helpful if you can describe what you are hearing. Any hearing care professional can tell you many, many stories about changing a person’s life by helping them hear and how it changed their quality of life by opening up the world again. It can come as a surprise to many people how many different sounds they have missed out on, such as the laughter and stories of their grandchildren, the birds singing, hearing a knock on the door, or feeling safer in traffic because they can hear.
We recommend using our simple preparation tool before your visit to a hearing clinic.
Your hearing aid in your unique ear
You can ask your hearing care professional to test the hearing aid before you receive it to make sure that it works according to all specifications. This means that the hearing care professional performs measurements on the product before fitting it on you. Even more importantly, you can ask that your hearing care professional tests how the hearing aid acts in your specific ear. Ear canals and ear drums are like a fingerprint: they differ in size, shape, length, and elasticity. Therefore, sounds can be louder or softer, depending on how your ear is built. In turn, this affects how much sound is ultimately transported to your brain. Hearing aids are programmed using a computer to a standard configuration, using your hearing loss as the main input. Setting them up to fit your unique ear “fingerprint” is done by measuring the sound level at your ear drums. Performing this task is called Real-Ear Measurements (REM).
Just like your doctor will prescribe you the correct dose of a medication, your hearing care professional will prescribe and measure the correct dose of soft, loud, low, and high pitch sound. Finding the right balance for you is one of the most important tasks of the hearing care professional and this is one of the ways you can determine a high quality and personalised hearing rehabilitation from a more standard hearing aid fitting.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions
Hearing care professionals are motivated by helping people, and they have specialised knowledge in an area that most people don’t know much about until they experience hearing loss themselves. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your hearing care professional and ask questions.