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Getting Used to Hearing Aids ó Find the One Thatís Right for You

By By Janie Rosman

 

Beyond a television or radio programmed for the loudest setting, the challenges of caring for a person who has lost all or part of the ability to hear are challenging. Talking on the phone becomes difficult; communicating with others face-to-face is frustrating.
 
My dad resisted hearing devices for a long time, relieved and annoyed when we took him to the VA hospital for an auditory exam. He left armed with headphones that connected to a tiny clip-on device for his shirt or belt, plus an extension wire.
 
ďI can hear better when itís right by the television,Ē he told the doctor, who grinned. Mom reminded him his ears are on his head, not on the other side of the room, and yet he resisted. Try telling someone who thinks the roar of a nearby train ďisnít too loudĒ that the volume is uncomfortable for others in the same room.
 
Maybe Dad and others like him, including two of our neighbors, have difficulty with hearing aids because it takes time to adjust. There are various styles of hearing aides, and two different ways for them to process sounds, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
 
Most behind-the-ear (BTE) aids are contained in a small plastic case that sits behind the personís ear and is connected by clear tubing to an earpiece ó itís easy to clean and use and is sturdy.
 
An ďon-the-earĒ device called mini BTE is smaller and connects to the ear canal by a thin, almost invisible tube. BTEs can have a smaller piece inserted into the ear or the traditional ear mold, and are more comfortable, are said to reduce feedback sounds and are more cosmetically appealing.
 
My dad didnít like in-the-canal (ITC), and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) are in tiny cases that fit partly or completely into the ear canal. Theyíre the smallest hearing aids, cosmetically appealing, and do aid hearing; yet for some, their small size make them difficult to handle and adjust, which Dad said was true for him.
 
All components of in-the-ear (ITE) aids are contained in a shell, which fills the outer part of the ear. Itís larger than ITC and CIC aids, and some people find them easier to handle than the smaller ones.
 
Some people adjust easily to new glasses while others donít, and the same holds true for hearing aids. Given the variety of styles, what is comfortable for one person may not be suited for someone else.
 
Taylor (2007), cited by the American Academy of Audiology, concluded ď . . . the average length of time a patient may require to become accustomed to their hearing aids, regardless of user history, is approximately 30 days."
 
Tremblay and Moore (2012) reported that people who donít do well with hearing aids (and/or cochlear implants) may have auditory systems that are "less plastic" (less capable of representing new acoustic cues).
Who hasnít wanted to filter out background noises when youíre talking with someone in a crowded room? Optional features like a directional microphone, which amplifies sound from a specific direction, can assist the person with hearing difficulty. When activated and pointed at the person youíre speaking with, for example, that sound will be amplified more loudly than the sound from another direction (behind you).
 
A T-coil (telephone switch) lets the person switch from the normal microphone setting to a "T-coil" setting in order to hear better on the telephone. While all wired telephones made today must be hearing-aid compatible, the "T-coil" eliminates environmental sounds (a bird chirping or a car driving by). Sounds are picked up by the telephone; additionally, this aid turns off oneís hearing aid microphone to prevent it from whistling. If a speaker is far away, like at a lecture, that sound will be amplified to a greater degree than background sounds.
 
Most are familiar with direct audio input, whereby a remote microphone or assistive listening system connects to a television or other device, like a tape player or radio. Squeals occur when the hearing aid gets too close to the telephone or has a loose-fitting ear mold.
 
Hear-it.org, established to increase public awareness of hearing impairment,  says while hearing aids donít restore lost hearing, they do help the user hear ó conversations and sounds perhaps not heard in a while like water running, birds singing, wind blowing ó better, and improve his or her social, psychological and physical sense of well-being.
 
Some benefits include:

  • Improved communication with family and caregiver
  • Improved self-esteem, feeling tired less often
  • Feel better about yourself, feeling less tired
  • Improved mental health and concentration
  • Promote independence and security
  • Ability to increase participation in social gatherings and increase social contacts

Complex features on a basic hearing device can meet the personís hearing loss needs, and in certain situations, may be more costly. Itís advisable for each person to check with his or her doctor about the hearing aid and features best for his or her needs.

 

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