Hearing Aid Assistance: What to Expect
Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D. - Better Hearing Institute, Washington, DC
Assistance for hearing aids is important because it can greatly improve your quality of life. Here are some issues you should keep in mind as you develop appropriate expectations about what your hearing aids can and cannot do for you:
- Restore hearing. No matter how technically advanced, in most cases hearing aids cannot restore your hearing to normal, except in some very mild hearing losses.
- Types of hearing aids. Not all hearing aids perform the same with every type of hearing loss.
- Hearing in noise. No hearing aid has been designed that will filter out all background noise. Some hearing aids can reduce amplification of some types of background noise or make you more comfortable in the presence of noise. The most effective solution for improving speech intelligibility in noisy situations is hearing aids with directional microphones. When directional hearing aids are coupled with digital signal processing, you can be assured that your hearing aids are optimized for improving your quality of life in noisy environments.
- Fit and comfort. Since you are purchasing custom hearing aids, you should expect the fit to be comfortable; ideally you should not even know they are in your ears. There should not be any soreness, bleeding, or rashes associated with your wearing hearing aids. If there is go back to your hearing healthcare provider.
- Sounds. Hearing aids should allow you to: (1) hear soft sounds (e.g. child's voice, soft speech) that you could not hear without amplification; this is part of the enjoyment of hearing aids; (2) prevent loud sounds from becoming uncomfortably loud for you-but very loud sounds that are uncomfortable to normal hearing people may also be uncomfortable for you.
- Whistling and feedback. It is normal for hearing aids to squeal or whistle when you are inserting them into your ear (if you do not have a volume control to shut it off). If it squeals after the initial insertion, then most likely you have an inadequate fit, and should tell your hearing healthcare provider.
- Your friend's hearing aid. Do not expect your friend's hearing aid brand or style to work for you.
- Your family doctor. Do not expect your family doctor to be knowledgeable about hearing loss, brands of hearing aids and whether or not you need them. Data shows that only 13% of physicians screen for hearing loss.
- Expect benefit. Expect your hearing aids to provide benefit to you during the trial period. By benefit, I mean that your ability to understand speech has demonstrably improved in the listening situations important to you (within realistic expectations though). This is what you hoped for, and you should expect benefit. If you do not experience an improvement, then work with your hearing healthcare professional to see if the instrument can be adjusted to meet your specific needs. Never purchase a hearing aid that does not give you sufficient benefit.
- Satisfaction guarantee. Expect to be satisfied with your hearing aids; expect the quality of your life to improve due to your hearing aids.
- Trial period. Expect a 30-day trial period with a money-back guarantee if your hearing aids do not give you benefit (there might be a small nonrefundable portion for some services rendered).
- Adjustment period. Give your hearing aids a chance, being sure to follow the instructions of the hearing healthcare provider. Most people need a period of adjustment (called acclimatization) before deriving the maximum benefit from their hearing aids (even up to four months).