IM this article to a friend!

November 13, 2002

Adjusting to hearing aids will take time

From: Kingsport Times News, TN
Nov. 13, 2002

By Linda Gemayel
Features columnist

Obtaining hearing aids has taken you a long way toward improving your hearing and your life.

But to successfully adjust to the new sounds you hear and to get the maximum benefit from your new hearing aids you will need a little time. To help you in your adjustment you may want to follow these guidelines:

• Start out slowly.

Some people can put on hearing aids for the first time and wear them all day in any environment, but most people cannot. It is advisable to begin use in your own home where you have more control over the variety of sounds you will hear. Use your comfort level as a guide.

If after several hours you want to take off your hearing aids, then you should. Allow your ears to rest and then put them on again later.

• You can live with background sounds.

Your new hearing aids will amplify all the sounds in your environment, not just speech. When your hearing was normal, all the extra noises you could hear were placed into your background, so that they did not distract you. Until you become accustomed to the sounds of life again you will have difficulty tuning them out.

Listen for the background sounds in your life and learn to recognize them. Those who wear their hearing aids only for special times never become accustomed to the sounds of life and never fully adjust to and benefit from their hearing aids.

• Enlist the assistance of a learning partner.

You may find it helpful to begin listening with your new hearing aids by conversing with only one person, spouse, neighbor or friend, in the absence of any other distracting sounds. After a day or two you may want to introduce some background noise from the television or a radio.

• Gradually extend your horizons.

As you become more experienced with your hearing aids, gradually expand the varieties of listening environments and the numbers of people you communicate with.

You will find that some situations and some voices are easier for you. Listening in groups will be more difficult than one-on-one conversations. When listening in groups, concentrate primarily on the person who is talking the most. And always watch the speaker's face. Even without formal training in speech reading (lip reading) understanding improves significantly when you have a clear view of the face.

• Work toward a higher volume setting.

After you have attained a full time use of your hearing aids, try using them at a slightly higher volume setting for short periods during the day. If this is not uncomfortable, expand on this higher level until you are using it full time.

Unless you are in a noisy environment that could potentially damage your hearing, you need not limit your hearing aid use. If you are around such sounds, it is best to remove your hearing aids and wear hearing protection. The plastic casing of hearing aids turned off in your ears will not protect your hearing.

• Do not become discouraged.

Remember, you did not lose your hearing overnight. Nor will you become fully adapted to your new hearing aids right away. But by practicing these suggestions you will continue to improve.

Always consult with your audiologist during your adjustment period, because there may be some reprogramming of the hearing aids that will benefit you. She will also be able to guide you through this process of attaining better hearing.

Copyright 2002 Kingsport Times-News. All rights reserved.