First, say thank you!  It has probably been a long time coming with years going by with lots of “what did you say” or “huh” or “I didn’t hear that” to get them to agree to a hearing exam and then getting the hearing test scheduled, getting there and then following through with the trial of hearing aids.  Congratulations to you for your tenacity in hanging in there all this time but there still is some work to do!

When anyone first gets hearing aids it will take at least a week to 2 weeks to really relearn how to hear.  Hearing aids do not restore normal hearing.  They amplify sounds so that there is a better chance that a hearing individual will be able to perceive them.  The more sounds that are heard the better the chance that the conversation will be understood.  The listener needs to train their brains to hear, understand and then utilize the extra sounds that are now heard.

Re-Learning to Hear

In relearning to hear again your loved one is going to notice TWO changes immediately! ONE they will hear sounds that they have not heard for some time and TWO, some sounds are now going to sound louder.

New Sounds

They may notice the clock now ticks, the turn signals click the refrigerator makes noise, the a/c or furnace turning on, cars going by outside or the birds singing in the trees.  These sounds that they were not picking up before may now be heard and they will be distracting as the brain is constantly “saying” to the new user, “what was that” similar to how they would say “huh” or “what” to you before.  Their brain is not accustomed to hearing those sounds so they are distracting.  The brain has to learn what these sounds are and then it can decide if they are important or if they can be ignored. Remember, your brain has already done this learning and these “routine” daily sounds are ignored by you.  With each day of hearing aid use these sounds will become less distracting.  Hearing the extra sounds is good. This means they are hearing better with their hearing aids!

Louder Sounds

As with the new sounds, certain everyday sounds will sound louder because the new hearing aid wearer is hearing better. Sounds like doors closing, the dog barking, water running, the toilet flushing and dishes rattling will sound louder than they did before putting on the hearing aids.  This is good, it means they are hearing better!  The sounds of these and other items may sound louder than they did before but they should not be uncomfortably loud where the sound hurts the ears or makes them jump.  Again, each day as they relearn how to hear these sounds will become more tolerable and more normal.

For both NEW and LOUDER sounds the brain needs to reinterpret them and categorize them as to what they are and there importance and how loud things really are.

Another factor that comes into play is background noise.  With the hearing aids on they will also hear the background sounds in a room and the brain has to relearn how to ignore the noise as best it can and concentrate on the wordsPractice, practice and more practice is needed.

Start Out Slowly

For the first day it is a good idea to beginning wearing the new hearing aids at home only.  Begin wearing 2 hours at a time morning, afternoon and evening with breaks of not wearing them in between.  The second day wearing them longer each time and the next day longer, longer the next and so on until the units can be put on in the morning and worn all day.  By the fourth day the units can be worn outside the home, in the car, at the store or visiting with neighbors.  Be patient about jumping in to the noisy listening places like the mall, noisy restaurant or larger meetings and crowds.  Learning to block out the background sounds is the hardest obstacle to overcome and this will take time to master.  Hearing in a crowd is difficult even for people with normal hearing.  Get your loved one to be patient, encourage them to try but be sure they start out slowly.

Adjusting to the Feel

The Audiologist should have the hearing aids fitted to your loved ones ear so that they will be comfortable.  However, there is something in the ear canal and the brain knows it.  The brain will constantly remind them that there is something in the ear at first.  After a while the brain will begin to ignore the feeling and the hearing aid will become unnoticeable to the wearer.  This process normally takes between 1 to 2 hours up to 2 days.  If pain or discomfort occurs, contact your Audiologist.

My Voice Sounds Different

This is a good sign; it means that their hearing has improved because now they are able to hear parts of their voices or their entire voice louder.  Again, the brain is noting this change and bringing it to their attention.   With time this will improve and become more natural.  To hasten the process of learning to hear one’s own voice better, read out loud several times a day.  Read out loud a few pages in a book, an article in the newspaper or Readers’ Digest, or even the funny papers.

The Bottom Line in Helping

Be encouragingPoint out situations where they had difficulty and are now doing better.  Point out their successes as they will not likely see them on their own.

Be a partner in this relearning process.  Be their conversation partner.  Begin conversing one on one just the 2 of you in a quiet environment and later add a neighbor or two especially people whose voices your partner is familiar with. Face your partner and make eye contact when you practice with your partner. Lip reading is helpful and something that we all use to help us to understand.   Read out loud to them. Do not mumble or talk softly especially if background noise is present. Speak slowly but naturally and do not shout as this can distort the speech sounds. Having the information handy so that they can listen and also read along is helpful.  Make up word lists to go over with your partner.  Find words which have one sound different such as fat and hat or six and fix.  Work on the sounds that they have the most trouble distinguishing between.

Relearning to hear can be difficult and it can be frustrating.  Show your patience. Be a good ear when they vent their frustration but also be supportive and encourage them to continue.  It will all come with time! Don’t pity your partner when they misunderstand, smile with a reassuring look that you understand and repeat your statement using the helpful hints noted previously.  Position yourself so that you can repeat another person’s statement that was misunderstood.  Your voice is more familiar and seeing your lips will also help.  Repeat the WHOLE sentence NOT just the misunderstood word. Also, if you make a statement that was not understood, don’t say “never mind’ instead ask them what they understood or what they did not understand.

For appointments try to have them set up in smaller quiet rooms with as few people as possible attending.

When communication is critical utilize texts or email to convey important points and the meaning of important information.

Attend the checkup appointments to listen to what the Audiologist advises.  Four ears are always better than two.  You can then reinforce what was said at the appointment or even recall something that your partner has forgotten.

If your loved one’s Audiologist provided any extra help such as regular computer emails packed with information or computer tasks which have been proven to speed up the relearning to hear process with computer games, please encourage your partner to take some time daily to read these emails and play the games as part of their relearning to hear process.

Keep a sense of humor.  Mistaken hearing can make you both laugh when it is discussed later amongst yourselves.

Enjoy better hearing right along with your loved one and the improved quality of life that comes with it!!!!

P.S. Other helpful hints that may assist you both

The aid marked in red is for the right, blue is left

Wipe, brush and turn the units off at night

Keep the units dry and away from heat (stove, car dashboard)

When putting them on and removing them do it over a carpet in case it is dropped

Hairspray-spray then wait 3 minutes before putting the units on

Save the owner’s manual or written information provided by you us

See your us at least every 3 months for cleaning (oil change)

Call use  when you have questions or a problem.