If you’ve been wearing your hearing aids for a while, think back to a time when you first got them. If you’re new to hearing aids and are just getting used to them, read on!
When you first put in your hearing aids – what did the world around you sound like? At first, you may have thought that everything was much louder. The reality, though, is that the sounds around you are better amplified. This change in clarity, crispness, and volume level around you took adjusting to, didn’t it?
The reality is, it takes a lot of time and hard work to get used to hearing aids. It is estimated that Americans tend to wait an average of seven years from the time they first experience hearing loss to the time they decide to seek treatment. In this time, the way we perceive sounds can significantly change. This is why the process of adjusting to hearing aids requires patience and persistence. Unfortunately, a large number of people give up on their hearing aids before their true benefits can be revealed.
A new system of intervention could help older Americans adjust to hearing aids, devised by Kari Lane, a professor at the University of Missouri’s Sinclair School of Nursing.
Study: A New Intervention Could Significantly Improve Hearing Aid Wear Time Among Older Adults
Hearing Aid Reintroduction (HEAR) was devised by Kari Lane, a professor at the University of Missouri. In her study, Lane writes, “Older adults between the ages of 65 and 75 years’ experience age related hearing loss, or presbycusis, frequently. As many as 38% of older adults in this age range have some form of hearing loss and that number rises to 54% as persons continue to age. It is concerning that many of these older adults also fail to adjust to hearing aids the first time they try to wear them. This may be due to the timeframe from onset of hearing loss to treatment.”
This problem, termed “hearing aids in the drawer,” means that people go through the entire process of being tested for hearing loss, fitted for the proper prescription of hearing aids, and just stop wearing them completely. To address this problem, Lane has introduced a new intervention system called HEAR.
HEAR is a “gradual and systematic reintroduction to hearing aids,” to prevent sensory overload and provide a structure that focuses on personal and environmental factors to assist older adults in getting used to wearing hearing aids. The system begins with one hour of hearing aid use a day, and increases an hour every three days. The complexity of sounds listened to during this practice also increases, beginning with everyday white noise items such as fans or dishwashers and moving up to listening to speech in restaurants and theaters. HEAR practice is accompanied by a workbook to guide people through the 30-day process.
HEAR was tested in a small sample group of 15 men and women, with the average age of 78 years old. Successful participants in this study managed to improve their hearing aid daily usage from 0 hours to 8.4 hours a day. Lane reports that researchers found an “80% increase in patients’ hearing aid wear time due to intervention” and that wearers “were able to tolerate more complex noises and reported more satisfaction with their hearing aids.”
Tips for Adjusting to Hearing Aids
HEAR is a relatively new intervention system to assist wearers in getting used to their hearing aids. If you do not have access to HEAR or something similar, there are still ways to get adjusted to your hearing aids.
Start off slow and be patient with yourself! Like the participants in the HEAR study, consider structuring your hearing aid usage in incremental steps. Begin with an hour or two a day, at home or in a quiet environment, and try to focus on less complex sounds.
Read to yourself and get used to the sound of your own voice. Try watching a movie or TV show with the captions on and listen while reading along.
Over time, as you grow more comfortable, invite your friends over for tea or a meal. Practice with your hearing aids at home, listening to a few speakers in a quiet environment. Once you feel more comfortable, take your hearing aids out for longer periods of time – run your errands with them or go to a movie.
Incrementally, you will get used to wearing your hearing aids. Hearing aids bring huge health benefits to your life and make sure you are connected to the world around you. And they do their best work while they’re in your ears!
For more information or help with adjusting to your hearing aids, contact us at Greentree Audiology.