Yes, it takes time to adjust to hearing aids. That’s because hearing is a complex operation involving the ears, nervous system and brain. It’s difficult to predict exactly how long it will take for you to adapt to your new hearing aids because the way each person hears and processes sounds is uniquely individual.
It can take up to 4 months to feel fully comfortable with your new hearing aids. During this adjustment period you may need a number of follow-up sessions with your audiologist to ensure you’re getting the full benefit of your hi-tech hearing devices.
Here are four important things to remember to help make the adjustment as smooth as possible.
- Hearing is a complex process
- Have realistic expectations
- Use the aids everyday
- Patience is vital
It’s worthwhile persevering because a properly fitted hearing aid can improve hearing in 90% of hearing loss cases according to the Canadian Hearing Society.
Hearing is a complex process
The hearing process is complex and there are many factors that will influence how quickly you adapt to your new hearing aids. One major factor is the length of time you’ve been living with hearing loss.
The reality is most people wait an average of 7 years from when they first notice a hearing problem to when they finally get hearing aids. There are a number of reasons why people procrastinate but during this time their hearing will actually be getting worse.
The auditory cortex is a little like a muscle: when it doesn’t get used those hearing faculties tend to atrophy. It’s the old use it or lose it syndrome. When you first start wearing hearing aids you may suddenly hear lots of noises you had forgotten and some of them may sound very loud.
Some noises, such as the ring of a telephone, a car horn, the vacuum cleaner or even the rustle of clothes may be shocking at first. Your auditory system will respond by re-establishing neural connections and learning to process these forgotten sounds. Step by step, you will adapt to the increased hearing range but it does take time.
Keep a record of your progress and the changes you notice and share them with your audiologist during the follow-up visits. The audiologist will adjust your hearing aid for optimal hearing performance accordingly.
You also need to realize that everyone experiences sound differently. What may sound shrill and unpleasant to you might be perfectly acceptable to another person. Your specific pattern of hearing loss and personality also play a role in how you perceive sounds. This will also influence how you adapt to your new hearing aids.
Have realistic expectations
It’s important to have realistic expectations about what hearing aids will do for you and also how quickly you fill adapt to your increased hearing ability. The reality is that hearing aids will not restore your hearing completely but many people will experience significant improvement in as little as 6 weeks.
The world is full of sounds, both pleasant and unpleasant. The hearing aids will help you hear them but now your brain needs to relearn how to process them. You may have forgotten some of these sounds but learning to deal with them is an essential part of learning to hear again.
You may expect to hear sounds in a certain way. But if your hearing loss involves a loss of higher frequencies then some sounds may sound tinny at first. Your brain will adapt after a few weeks and you’ll learn to appreciate that extra richness in your hearing experience.
Educate yourself about how hearing aids work. Learn about hearing loss in general and develop a better understanding of your specific hearing loss. And if you have any questions ask your audiologist; it’s your process and you need to take charge of it. Realistic expectations also involve making a commitment to using your hearing aids every day.
Use the aids everyday
Daily use is the best way to adapt to your hearing aids. Start by wearing your hearing aids for short periods: say 5 or 6 hours a day. Begin with wearing them in familiar settings such as around the house. Avoid wearing them in really noisy or challenging settings until you have built up some familiarity.
Gradually build up the number of hours until you’re wearing them all day. It is important to use them regularly in a wide variety of settings too. Patience is vital; soon you’ll forget you’re even wearing them.
You may feel tired with all these new sounds so don’t force it. Be realistic with your expectations. Soon, just like any exercise you’ll build up the necessary hearing stamina.
Be an active listener. Even people with perfect hearing choose to focus on some sounds or tune out others from time to time. So, notice the different sounds in your environment. Shift your focus from one sound to another as you explore the soundscape around you. This practice will help you adapt more quickly and effectively.
You might be shocked by the sound of your voice so focus on that and work out what really sounds so different. Listen to the hum of the washing machine or shift your attention to a conversation in the background. Adapting to your new hearing aids is like practicing a musical instrument and, as the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’.
Patience is vital
Above all be patient with yourself and the process. Learning to adapt to your hearing aids is more like a marathon than a sprint race and the better prepared you are the easier the process will be. For many people there is a grieving process as they come to terms with their hearing loss. You can read more here about how to move smoothly through this grieving process.
Acknowledging your loss is actually the first step to adapting to your hearing aids. But doing your homework before you get your hearing aids is important too. Make sure you discuss your needs, your lifestyle, and your concerns with your audiologist.
Your friendly House of Hearing audiologist is here to help make the whole process smooth and straightforward. Take advantage of our expert advice and in-depth follow-up programmes so you can get back to healthy hearing as quickly as possible. We offer a wide range of hearing aids that feature varying levels of technological aids to help make hearing a real pleasure.