There is a common misconception that hearing aids are the “cure all” for hearing loss. In reality, hearing aids are just the first step in the rehabilitation process. Improving communication involves a long term rehabilitative process in which the hearing aid is only part. As such, you should enter into this rehabilitative process with realistic goals and knowing what to expect from the hearing aid and your audiologist. If you are to be successful in improving communication with amplification, you must be committed, motivated and educated about your role in this process.
Expectations and Goals
Successful use of amplification is predicated on realistic expectations. There is a fine line between expecting too much out of your hearing aids and having appropriate expectations. For example, expecting that your hearing will return to “normal” is not a realistic expectation for any hearing aids, but expecting to have increased ease of communication with hearing aids is realistic. Unrealistic expectations often lead to frustration, disappointment and often failure. Including your family and/or significant others in your discussion of goals and expectations also will contribute to successful use of amplification and improved communication.
Adjusting to Hearing Aids
Adjustment to amplification and learning to hear again can be challenging. People are often surprised when they first hear footsteps, refrigerator noise and distant sounds that they had not heard in years. Because the brain has not received this type of stimulation for the duration of your hearing loss, it may take a while for you to adjust to the new sounds you are hearing. Different listening environments present different challenges.
Initially, your new ability to hear may be overwhelming to you. But as your brain relearns to hear, particularly in noisy situations, you will find communication will become increasingly easier. Adjusting to amplification is an individual issue. Some people adjust immediately while others take weeks or months to adjust to their new world of sound. Your audiologist will support you through this period in addition to making adjustments to your hearing aids, as needed.
Hearing aids are powerful, effective tools for increasing your ability to hear. But hearing aids will not automatically make you a better listener. That takes work! Listening requires attention, concentration and interest. Often times, people with hearing losses develop poor listening skills. This occurs because hearing becomes so difficult that they give up and just “turn off” the speaker. Once you are fit with hearing aids, it is imperative that your listening skills be fine-tuned. To help you learn to hear better, particularly in difficult listening environments, we provide you access to the LACE (Listening and Communication Enhancement) program, an online aural rehabilitation program aimed at improving listening and communication strategies.
Group Hearing aid Orientation
At Cary Audiology Associates, we stress the importance of rehabilitation. We offer group aural rehabilitation/hearing aid orientation sessions. These sessions are offered on a monthly basis and are open to individuals recently fit with hearing aids and their family and/or significant others. The focus of these sessions is typically on adjusting to amplification, listening and communication strategies, assistive listening devices and hearing aid accessories. Many people find that the primary advantage of the group environment is that it can provide peer support for adjusting to amplification.
The Role of Your Family
As mentioned previously, including family members and/or significant others throughout the rehabilitation process is strongly advised. In addition to learning about your hearing problems and how they can be remediated, family members can learn how to improve their communication skills to facilitate easier communication. It is important that family members understand their roles in communication breakdowns and how they help avoid and/or repair these breakdowns.
Simply purchasing hearing aids will not insure improved communication. It is important to remember: hearing aids are not a quick-fix purchase. They are simply the tools that provide the amplification you need to become a better listener and communicator. We detect sound with our ears but we process it with our brain. If you are motivated to improve your communication by obtaining amplification, relearning to listen and engaging in an active rehabilitation process, then your chances for improved communication are excellent.