From strange sound quality to itchy or sore ears, new hearing aids aren't always immediately a comfortable, enjoyable experience

Is It Normal For New Hearing Aids To Be Uncomfortable?

by | Dec 13, 2022 | Hearing Aids, Patient Resources, Troubleshooting

Here at Berkeley Hearing Center, we understand the importance of empowering our patients by educating them, their loved ones, other healthcare professionals, and the public about Audiology & hearing health care.

We believe that the ‘informed choice’ is always the best choice. Today we’re going to tackle some of the more common questions our patients experience regarding the physical experience of wearing hearing aids.

Over the years, one of the most consistent issues manufacturers have worked to improve the physical aspects of wearing hearing aids. From our experience, putting on hearing aids for the first time can be a magical experience.

You’re suddenly able to hear, or hear more clearly, so many of those important and/or beautiful sounds that you’ve been missing out on – grandchildren laughing, birds singing, your colleague’s question.

You’re able to more easily communicate and connect with friends, family, and/or colleagues in more profound and impactful ways. Music has greater detail and ‘body.’

But sometimes, that moment of ‘awe’ is followed by moments of “ow.” From strange sound quality to itchy or sore ears, new hearing aids aren’t always immediately a comfortable, enjoyable experience.

But if you give your ears, body, and brain some time to adjust, your patience is well rewarded. To be clear, when properly fit, hearing aids are comfortable in how they feel & sound, easy to use, and effective.

Why Aren’t My New Hearing Aids Comfortable?

Do you remember the first time you wore glasses or contacts? Were they perfectly comfortable from the start? Or have you ever gotten a crown for a tooth? Did they have to remake it?

Heck, think about your favorite pair of jeans or shoes. Did it take time for you to ‘break them in’?

Chances are, it took some time to adjust before they felt ‘right.’ Unsurprisingly, hearing aids work much the same way. But with hearing aids, there are a few different aspects that new users need to adjust to.

Users need to acclimate to both how they sound, as well as how they feel, particularly because they’re worn in a part of the body that is very sensitive (highly innervated) and typically ‘unspoiled,’ as it were.

In contrast, the thin tissue structure, hairs, nerve endings in the external auditory canal (ear canal) acclimate to something new in its environment.

Over 28 million adults could benefit from hearing aids, yet only a few million invest in them. For most people, hearing aid purchases come only after people have already experienced a decent amount of hearing loss for a decent amount of time.

From childhood, the brain learns to filter out extraneous information unconsciously. A healthy auditory system can hear remarkably well in noise, even when competing noise is equally as loud as what we’re trying to hear.

One of the only ‘fringe benefits’ of hearing loss is that sufferers experience a ‘quiet, peaceful world.’ But as we know, the world around us is NOT quiet or (unfortunately) peaceful.

The environmental noises that you’ve missed over the years suddenly become audible, all at once. So for new hearing aid users, the brain must essentially be re-trained how to hear and use the information it is now receiving.

And the brain has evolved to pay special attention to things that are (suddenly) new to our environment. When we were apes in the trees, if there was a sound, we needed to quickly determine whether it was made by predator, prey, fire, etc.

So instinctually, our nervous system reacts to all of this information with a heightened state of alert. But given time and experience, our brain re-acclimates and begins to filter out those extraneous sounds again unconsciously.

Concurrently, the physical structures of the pinna (outer ear) need time to get used to having a device sitting astride it (along with glasses and mask straps).

In contrast, the thin tissue structure, hairs, nerve endings in the external auditory canal (ear canal) acclimate to something new in its environment.

What Are The Common Issues?

Some of the most common issues we typically address in our clinic include:

Expect An Adjustment Period

It’s important to understand that with wearing hearing aids, there’s an adjustment period. It’s different for everyone. Some people adjust within days, and others may take more time to adjust to these new devices in their ears fully.

When properly fit, hearing aids should be very comfortable in how they feel and sound. Anything that keeps you from wanting to wear them needs to be brought to the attention of your Audiologist.

Do you need help with your new hearing aids? Contact us and set up an appointment. We can help you get past those early blues and fitting issues.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Jessa Muscio Traylor

Dr. Traylor earned her B.A. degree in Spanish and communicative disorders and her M.S. degree in audiology in 2005 from San Francisco State. She began practicing at an established audiology private practice in Oakland immediately after graduation. Dr. Traylor went on to earn her doctorate in audiology in 2010 from Salus University in Pennsylvania while continuing her private practice work. In 2011, she took a position at Herrick Hospital, diagnosing & treating hearing loss and balance issues. In 2016, Dr. Traylor joined the Berkeley Hearing Center team.

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