At Living Sounds Hearing Centre, we often talk about hearing aids and how they work, how to manage new hearing devices when they are purchased, or hearing loss and how to protect hearing in the first place. We talk about the emotions involved and the significant impact hearing loss has on a person or the person’s family and friends. We even talk about medical implications and certain diseases that are correlated with hearing loss. However, I fear we don’t talk enough about hearing rehabilitation and what this process actually looks like for most first-time hearing aid users!
First, I’d like to start by saying, “Congratulations!” if you are reading this right now. You’ve started down the path towards better hearing and communication by showing interest in improving a problem that may be affecting you or someone you love. This is one of the earliest stages in the process of hearing rehabilitation. Even if you haven’t purchased hearing aids or even identified a hearing loss yet, you are thinking about the prospect that action is needed. You’re on your way.
The next few steps in the process are straightforward. First, a hearing test is needed to identify hearing levels. If hearing loss is diagnosed, we will often talk about the options for treating this hearing deficit. When your Audiologist or Hearing Instrument Practitioner makes a recommendation, they are often considering numerous factors that may affect which device is the most suitable for you. They will talk to you about size and styles, technology levels, aesthetics and manageability. These are significant factors to consider; the smallest hearing aid is not always the best hearing aid for your specific hearing loss!
Initially your new hearing device may seem unusual. Suddenly you’ll be hearing sounds you haven’t heard in a while and in some cases, may have forgotten were there in the first place! Your clinician will spend time fitting the hearing aid, a process that includes validating and verifying the hearing aid’s volume or “gain” and noise control features to ensure your hearing needs are being met. In many cases patients’ will need some fine-tuning to help make the sound more enjoyable or more functional in their daily lives. Overtime, your brain will become reacquainted with the environmental sounds around you.
There are auditory training techniques that help the brain adjust to new sounds. These include listening games and exercises available for download on your phone, computers or tablets that are designed to help challenge your auditory system and help improve the process of acclimatizing to the hearing aid’s sound. These types of games are often designed using visual and auditory cues to help improve your overall comprehension of speech sounds by having you listen to and identify speech sounds as phonemes, words or brief sentences, often with competing noise. Starkey Laboratories developed one such game called “Hear Coach” and it is available for download through iTunes or Google Play for Android.
Your clinician is a great asset during this process. He or she will be able to guide you by making suggestions that are more specific to you and your needs, such as fine-tuning your hearing aid settings to improve your listening experience. At Living Sounds Hearing Centre, our trained professional are always willing to act as a sounding board to discuss the nuances of hearing with hearing aids. We always encourage our patients to contact us regularly during the hearing rehab process to ensure that everything is going smoothly.
Tania Gora, MSc, R.Aud, Aud (C)