ITD Hearing Aids, Part 2
Last month, I promised ways to help users get the most out of hearing aids. What follows will, I hope, help you to engage with your audiologist so the scope of the problem is understood and all of the really amazing benefits provided by today's state-of-the-art hearing aids & assistive listening technology are realized.
My 1st 'tip' is very simple. Find an audiologist that knows what they are doing! Hearing aids only work as well as they are programmed and physically fit to the user. Period. And just as important, find one who cares. Proper treatment of hearing loss is a process. To do it properly takes knowledge, expertise and patience-from both patient and provider.
My 2nd tip is to be very engaged in the process. Understanding the problem is fundamental to solving it. Talking with your audiologist about the audiometric results, how/why they relate to specific communication issues, will help you to fully understand the problem(s). Communicate with him/her about any issues that might affect use or care, such as dexterity or vision issues. Once the overall problem is understood, treatment options can be discussed. And though we can't completely fix the hearing loss, properly fit hearing aids can & should make a significant difference.
The most important aspect of treating hearing loss, of course, is amplification (hearing aids). I counsel all of my patients (and their families) about the importance of being involved in the fitting & fine-tuning process. And it is a process! Everything about hearing aids is subjective, from how they feel physically to how they sound. Even, and especially, initial programming of hearing aids is always a just a starting point, with later fine tuning changes often needed. There are way too many potential variables for there not to be 'bridges that need to be crossed'. I counsel my patients to evaluate what they are experiencing, with attention to details. I'm not in their head. I don't feel what they feel or hear how they are hearing. With time and patience, just about any issue associated with hearing aids can be addressed. So be very engaged in the process. Ask questions. Verbalize problems, with details/examples. As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease!
But even the most effective hearing aids won't help if the user can't use/care for them easily. I routinely set aside an hour and half for initial fitting appointments and an hour for follow-ups, because I know how important it is for patients to be comfortable & proficient in the use & care of their hearing aids. Which brings me to my third/fourth/fifth tips, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Unsurprisingly, it is critical to know how to use and care for them. Practicing insertion/removal, changing batteries and cleaning will ensure that the hearing aids give the benefits they are capable of providing, instead of ending up in the drawer.
My final tip is this, don't wait till you “need” hearing aids. On average, it takes about 6 years from the time a hearing loss is first identified to when treatment is sought. There's a 'use it or lose it' proposition to hearing loss, and the sooner it is addressed the better your (or a loved one's) life will be-now and into the future.