Over the last couple of months, I’ve been trying out a variety of hearing aids as part of my newly-found “guinea pig” position at Phonak. As a geek, I love playing with new technology and trying things out. As a person with hearing loss, I’m curious about how good things can get for me.
One of the challenges I’ve come upon trying out hearing aid solutions is confusion. You know what happens when you’re shopping for perfumes, and after a (short) while you can’t distinguish smells anymore? That’s a bit what it feels like with sound. Maybe it has to do with the rather strong “habituation” component there is in the way we process sound.
Some situations are clear-cut: for example, after trying out the Bolero Q90 hearing aids for a few weeks, I switched back to my Widex Clear 330 ones to see if I could spot a “reverse difference”. One situation where there was no debate was at the vet’s: I’d been going there regularly throughout my Bolero trial, and when I went back with my Widex aids in, I really struggled to understand what my vet was saying. The room is a bit echoey and she speaks quite fast. To make extra sure I wore the Boleros next time around.
I did recall that I’d always found it difficult in that room. Switching programmes, even turning my hearing aids off. But I completely forgot about all this as soon as the situation stopped presenting difficulties with the Q90 aids. See how it goes? We’re prompt to forget and get used to what we have.
Another situation was singing. I sing in my car a lot. With the Widex aids, I’d get “scratchy” noises on some notes when the anti-feedback mechanism kicked in. With the Boleros, no scratchy noises, but annoyingly vibrating notes (anti-feedback mechanism again, I’m told). With Venture, no scratchy noises or vibrating notes — a huge, huge improvement.
A few weeks back I tried “slim tips”, a light type of custom mold, so that I would have better music quality when streaming with my ComPilot. For that, it worked, but when I was singing, I couldn’t hear myself well enough at all. So that was also a clear-cut situation. (We still might be able to improve it, I haven’t abandoned the idea of a more closed fitting altogether.)
But most of the time, specially when we’re tweaking settings, it quickly gets really hard to know if things are better, worse, just different, or even, not different. My poor brain can’t follow.
One problem I identify is that comparison relies on memory. And also that the hearing situations we have problems with are often “out in the real world” and not in the audiologist’s lab. Maybe some form of distance fitting will help solve that — but the fact that we get used to what we’re listening to very fast seems to be here to stay.