Are you struggling with hearing loss? Are you considering hearing aids? It’s important to know that adjusting to hearing aids is a process, and it’s not something that happens overnight. Your brain needs time to adapt to the new sounds that you will be hearing with your hearing aids. In fact, auditory acclimatization is a phenomenon in which the performance with hearing aids improves after several weeks of use.
According to Arlinger et al (1996), auditory acclimatization is defined as a systematic change in auditory performance with time, linked to a change in the availability of acoustic information. This means that while there is an initial improvement in hearing when you first use hearing aids, extended use will lead to further improvement in performance. Your brain will get used to hearing new sounds and processing new auditory information. Think of it this way: You go to watch a movie at the theater, and the room is usually dimly lit. However, when you walk out of the theater into the bright sunlight, your eyes need time to adjust. The same goes for your ears when you start using hearing aids.
Trust the Process
Unlike eyeglasses, which provide instant results, hearing aids require some time for your brain to adjust to the new sounds. When you first start using hearing aids, you will notice that speech, environmental sounds, and noise are all louder than what you are used to. This can be overwhelming and cause some discomfort. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that this is a natural part of the acclimatization process.
To help with this process, hearing aids are programmed to not be at 100% target volume right off the bat. The goal is to help our patients have a pleasant listening experience and gradually get comfortable with hearing forgotten sounds without feeling overwhelmed. It’s crucial to have patience during this period and not expect linear progress.
Hearing loss is typically gradual, so there are likely sounds that you haven’t heard in several years. So, your brain needs to re-learn these sounds and practice knowing which sounds to focus on and which ones to filter out. As you wear your hearing aids daily, you’ll exercise parts of your brain and auditory nerve that have not been active, leading to better hearing.
The Importance of Trial Periods
To facilitate this process, we provide a trial period. This is an essential step in the process of adjusting to hearing aids because it allows you to test out the hearing aids in different environments and situations. The trial period typically lasts a few weeks, during which you can test the hearing aids in your daily routine and get used to the new sounds.
During the trial period, it’s important to take notes on how the hearing aids are working for you. This will help us fine-tune the hearing aids to your specific needs. It’s not uncommon to make adjustments to the hearing aids during the trial period to ensure that you are getting the best possible hearing experience.
At your own pace
Adjusting to hearing aids is a process that requires patience and commitment. It’s important to keep in mind that auditory acclimatization is a real phenomenon that can take several weeks to occur fully. Taking advantage of the trial period provided by most hearing aid manufacturers can be extremely helpful in making the necessary adjustments and ensuring that you are getting the best possible hearing experience. So if you’re considering hearing aids, remember to give yourself time to adjust, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us for support during the trial period. We are here for you! Ready to schedule a visit? Click here to do so.
To understand how hearing aids work, we first need to start off with a quick anatomy lesson.
Let’s learn about the ears! Your ear is made up of three parts: First, there is the outer ear which is the part you can see. This is called the pinna and the ear canal. Then, there is the middle ear which consists of the eardrum, three middle ear bones, and a tube that connects the middle ear to the nasal sinus cavity called the eustachian tube. Finally, there is the inner ear which is made up of the cochlea, the vestibular system, and the 8th cranial nerve. Now that we understand the basic anatomy of the ear, we can get into how those structures work to help us hear sounds! If you break it down, sounds are simply pressure waves. A wave is captured by our pinna and funneled into our ear canal to our eardrum. The ear drum then moves the three bones in the middle ear which sends an electrical pulse into the cochlea. The fine structures in the cochlea then transmit the signal up the 8th cranial nerve to our brain. And that’s how we hear music, our loved ones talking, birds chirping, and all other sounds!
So, what happens when a person experiences hearing loss?
Well, as we now know, there are many intricate structures in the ear and damage can occur in any of these places. A conductive hearing loss happens when sounds cannot get through the outer and middle ear meaning the damage is located in one of those sections. Sensorineural hearing loss happens when there is damage somewhere in the inner ear. Auditory processing disorder (APD) happens when the brain does not “hear” sounds in the usual way and struggles to interpret the information sent from the ears. You can read more about APD by clicking here.
Now, how do hearing aids work?
Hearing aids work by increasing the amount of sound you hear at specific frequencies. Since each person will have a unique type of hearing loss, each device must be specially programmed. It is crucial for a hearing aid to be fine-tuned. This is done through a test called Real Ear Measure. You can read more about that here.
Hearing aids amplify the sound through a three-part system. First, the sound is collected by the hearing aid at the microphone ports. Depending on the type of device you have, there can be one to four microphone ports. The sound is then filtered by the technology inside the device to help decrease background noise and increase speech clarity. From there, the sound is transmitted through the receiver into the ear canal. The sound can then be processed by the ear and brain as normal. So, if there is extensive damage to the ear, hearing aids may not be the best option. This is because hearing aids still depend on the fine structures of the ear. In a case where hearing aids are no longer helpful, a cochlear implant may be recommended by your audiologist or otolaryngologist.
Hearing Aid Technology
Hearing aid technology has come a long way in the past five years and now uses artificial intelligence to separate speech from the background noise. While the type of hearing aid device and the technology that is inside the device is an important component of quality hearing treatment, having best practice hearing aid fittings and a follow up treatment maintenance program is just as important.
Congratulations! Identifying hearing loss is the first step to take on your journey to better hearing. Now that you know you may need hearing aids, how do you go about choosing the right ones for you? We’re “hear” to help.
What is your listening lifestyle?
Hearing aids are not one-size-fits-all. Your goals, your lifestyle and the type of hearing loss you have will determine what hearing aids are right for you. For example, there are brands of hearing aids specifically designed for someone who has tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. There are devices for those with severe hearing loss and for those who want the ability to customize programs into their hearing aids. Yes, you can do that!
Here are some things to consider regarding your lifestyle:
Do you regularly enjoy swimming or spend a lot of time near water?
Do you require a device that detects falls and can be monitored from a care-givers phone?
Do you stay away from large crowds and noisy areas?
Do you attend weekly meetings and get togethers with friends frequently?
Believe it or not, there are devices to fit your unique lifestyle no matter what it may be! Another aspect to consider is the amount of technology contained inside the hearing aid. Most modern hearing aids have some capacity of artificial intelligence inside the device for a number of reasons including to help you hear better in difficult listening environments: say a noisy restaurant. So, your listening lifestyle can influence which devices would be a best fit for you and how much technology your devices would need.
The fit of your devices
Lastly, the most important part of your hearing aid is how it fits. This is why seeing a professionally trained specialist, an audiologist, who is qualified to properly fit devices is vital to your hearing journey. Even the most highly rated devices will not sound clear if they are not properly fitted and maintained. Think: you wouldn’t just buy any size pants and expect them to fit! An audiologist can test if your hearing aid is properly programmed with a tool called Real Ear Measure, or REM. This procedure involves putting a very small microphone down the ear canal close to the eardrum. From there, the doctor will play some noise for the microphone. There are different types of noises depending on multiple factors including your type of hearing loss. This will allow the doctor to see exactly how much volume the hearing aid is providing based on the size and shape of your ear. See how personalized a hearing aid fitting is? If you think about it, a noise will sound different in a tiny closet versus in an auditorium. So, this test allows us to customize the hearing aid for your specific ear versus leaving the device on the standard settings.
We hope you can see just how personal choosing a hearing aid is. If you need assistance getting fitted for your specific needs, feel free to make an appointment or call our office and we would be happy to help you take your first step to better hearing!
Ready for a trial?
At Ecoutez Hearing Aid Boutique in Southlake Texas we offer a try before you buy program. You read that right, trial the best hearing aids from top brands from the comfort of your home before you commit to a purchase. Use the link below to schedule your hearing aid trial appointment or click HERE to learn more about our services.