Correcting your hearing loss with properly fitted and adjusted hearing aids is the first step to better hearing but hearing involves more than just detection of sound. Detection of the signal is just the beginning. Ours ears work to detect sound and transform those sound waves into electrical waves that our brain can use and interpret. We therefore actually hear with our brain. As we all know our brain is a complicated and beautiful thing.
There are some things you can do to optimize your listening experiences:
Having realistic expectations about your hearing ability is crucial. Damage to the ears is very individualistic and therefore expected outcomes are also very individualized. Mr. Smith may realistically be expected to clearly understand mostly everything with his new hearing aids based on his test result while realistic expectations for Mr. Jones might be to understand 60% of conversations due to his damage and test results. Have a frank discussion with your audiologist about realistic expectations for you and your hearing loss.
Daily use of your hearing aids whether or not you think you need to. Your brain likes consistency of input. Using your hearing aids in the easier situations (like around the house) better prepares you for more challenging listening situations (like in a crowd). Imagine trying to run the New York City marathon but never training for it. I don’t think anybody would place a bet on you to win that marathon. Now imagine training for that marathon once a month versus every day. Much different experiences, much different outcomes. Clinical studies have shown that those individuals who do not wear their hearing aids every day, all day really never hear as well as they could with daily use and practice. Remember, we hear with our brain and our brain is always seeking input and training.
Learn to communicate better by eliminating the “huh” “what “and pardon me”. Replace them by repeating what you did hear or thought you heard. For example, your spouse says “I am going to the store to get some bananas.” But you only heard something about “bananas” and missed the rest of the sentence. If you say “what?” your spouse is likely to just repeat the same way. You are then likely just to hear “bananas” again. If you say “what?” a second time, you are likely to either get “the look” (you know the one that includes the eye roll) or “never mind” or yelled at. None of these responses are very helpful to you though. As much as those around us want to help, it is much easier to change our own responses to get the help we need. You can do this by repeating whatever you thought you heard. When you do this several things will happen: 1. Your significant other will realize you are actually listening. 2. Your significant other now knows what you heard and what you did not hear- this then forces them to change the way they are saying it. You get the information you did not receive the first time now. Example: You- “What did you say about bananas?” Spouse “I am going to Safeway to get some.”
Make Sure You are in the Right Seat
Noisy situations are often the most frustrating. One of the important things you can do is to make sure you are in the “right seat.” When in noisy situations, most hearing aids try and optimize speech in the direction your nose is pointing and minimize the speech from behind. When in a restaurant, position yourself facing your dinner partner and the rest of the restaurant crowd should ideally be behind you. This will further optimize your hearing in a crowd.
Retraining your brain to decode and decipher is an ongoing task in anyone who has hearing loss. Working memory also plays a large role in the auditory processing of information. There are some simple things you can do to “train your brain”. It can be simply having someone read the newspaper article out loud to you and then you read it or do both simultaneously. You can get an audio version of the book and play it as you read the book. There are also some applications available for daily training. Some of these applications include ‘Luminosity‘, and ‘Hear Coach’ by Starkey.
Have your hearing aids serviced regularly. Routine maintenance at least every 6 months is generally recommended and included in most hearing aid plans of AudigyCertified providers. Having your hearing aids cleaned and checked regularly is essential. This often will “brighten” the sound and lead to better battery life. In addition, regular hearing screenings should be done. We can adjust your hearing aids if your hearing has changed. We always strive to optimize your hearing aid function.