When we ask our patients if they are excited about new hearing aids, the response we get is lackluster, to say the least. Hearing aid technology has never been better and manufacturers are always looking to make improvements, spending millions of dollars on research and development to improve patient outcomes. Patient satisfaction ratings have been dramatically on the rise, with 84% of patients reporting high satisfaction with their hearing aids in the most recent mass patient survey conducted in 2014 (see link below for details). If you need a hearing aid, it’s ok to become excited! In this blog, we will outline what to expect while going through the hearing aid selection and fitting process.
Hearing Aid Selection
A wide variety of hearing aids, technology levels, and styles exist in the hearing industry. The options might seem overwhelming, but an audiologist’s job is to help simplify this process! Technology selection is based on patient needs, preferences and lifestyle. Hearing aid style depends on the hearing loss, manual dexterity, options for rechargeability and aesthetics, just to name a few. Hearing aids now have the potential to be quite technical as well if the patient is interested. Hearing aids are able to connect to cell phones, be controlled and adjusted by apps, and allow for direct streaming from televisions for more pleasurable viewing. If technology does not interest you, that is ok too. Hearing aids can also be as simple as putting on a pair of glasses. With that being said, you should know that your first hearing aid fitting will be very different than getting a pair of glasses!
Hearing Aids are Not the Same as Glasses
Some patients seem surprised to hear their first hearing aid fitting will take almost an hour! Hearing aids are comparable to micro computers that need to be programmed to a patient’s unique hearing thresholds and then further adjusted to the patient’s comfort levels. Noise management strategies, the physical fit and comfort of the hearing aid, the patient’s lifestyle and the need for programs are all taken into consideration during the hearing aid fitting. The hearing aid is then checked using a “verification system” to ensure it was fit based on the patient’s hearing loss. Smart phone and tablet apps or other accessories are reviewed and how to clean the hearing aid is also discussed at the appointment. Many aspects are involved in a patient’s first hearing aid fitting!
Another significant difference between wearing glasses and hearing aids is the amount of adaptation required by the brain when new and wonderful sounds are being heard for the first time in a long time. Truthfully, some patients may not agree that the sounds they are hearing are wonderful. For example, the sound of a clock ticking may sound alarming initially. However, it is important to remember that the patient’s brain has not heard many of these sounds in a long time, and the regions of the brain that previously heard those sounds need to re-adjust. Rest assured however, because as a person’s brain becomes used to hearing again, these sounds will start to sound normal. Patients often come back to The Hearing Room and express their wonder at ever living without hearing them!
Follow up and Maintenance
Audiologists strive to see their hearing aid patients quite regularly in order to re-assess hearing thresholds and ensure their patients’ hearing aids are being maintained properly. Hearing clinics have equipment, such as a small hearing aid vacuum cleaner, used to deep clean the hearing aids more than the patient is able to do at home. It’s extremely important for this reason to maintain regular follow-up appointments (usually scheduled every 6 months), to ensure the hearing aids are kept in fine condition. While hearing thresholds usually do remain quite steady, a gradual decline is expected over time and adjusting the patient’s hearing aids to their hearing as it changes ensures optimal hearing.