George is in his late 50s and has finally purchased a pair of hearing aids, something his wife has been trying to get him to do for almost three years. His first week at work wearing his aids ends with George completely frustrated — and his hearing aids in the drawer! When George’s wife asks what happened, he gets defensive and describes his experience. Sounds were too loud; the hearing aids were uncomfortable to wear; they didn’t help him hear in meetings; and he’s sure that people were staring and talking about him behind his back. Worst of all, he’s afraid he’ll be seen as “over the hill,” and never receive another raise.
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Get Fit (or Refit)
Find a good fitter to make sure that your hearing aids are comfortable, and meet your specific needs. In a recent study by Consumer Reports, two-thirds of hearing aids provided to customers were not fit well.1 Properly fitted hearing instruments need to not only be the right size, but also calibrated and amplified for your specific needs. If your first fit isn’t right, make another appointment with your hearing care specialist. Your fitter is as interested as you are in making sure you find hearing success.
Unlike eyeglasses, which can produce instant results, it takes time to adjust to hearing aids. Remember, your brain is being asked to process sounds it hasn’t heard in a long time – or ever. Be patient and give yourself at least six to eight weeks to acclimate. Your patience just may pay off. According to one study, sticking with hearing aids eventually led to higher hearing satisfaction in nearly 75 percent of users.2
Increase Your Potential Earnings
A 2005 study, conducted by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI), found that people with unaddressed hearing loss make less money per year, than people with normal hearing. The key word here is unaddressed hearing loss. The study found a difference of up to $23,000 per year!3
Cassie is a typical teenager. She spends her days (and nights) with her cell phone wedged in her hand, texting about everything from boys to bands. Texting is her preferred method of communication, since most of the time at school her friends are all talking so fast (and at the same time) that she misses what people are saying. She’s so afraid of being “different” that she finds herself staying out of crowds and hectic social situations to avoid “awkward.”
Even though Cassie has moderate-to-severe hearing loss in one ear, and a hearing aid to compensate, the teen won’t be caught dead wearing it – despite the hair-thin tube that is almost invisible. She’s sure everyone will notice, resulting in the “end of her social life.”
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Super Size Your Social Life
More than half the participants in a recent poll say that their relationships and social life improved significantly as a result of hearing aids.4 The truth is that hearing and interacting more successfully with others may not only improve your social life, but also allow you to be who you are, and do what you love.
In today’s world, there are earpieces and personal electronic accessories galore. With the advent of Bluetooth wireless headsets, more and more people are walking around with something in their ears. The net result is that others may not even notice the hair-thin tubing of a mini behind-the-ear hearing aid. If they do happen to notice, they probably won’t care. In fact, they might even think it’s cool.
Hearing better can actually make you feel better about yourself. A 2010 BHI survey showed that 4 out of 10 respondents felt a boost in self-confidence and independence when wearing their hearing aids.5
For Rick, the issue with his hearing aids isn’t cosmetic; it’s technical. He spends time fidgeting and fussing with them, and notices almost no difference in his hearing. “It’s just more trouble than it’s worth,” he explains, “Besides I get along fine without them.”
Being a no-nonsense guy, Rick went to the first fitter that he found. He didn’t ask about the fitter’s experience, provide detailed information about his own specific hearing challenges, or research the different brands and features available on the market. Basically, he didn’t fully participate in the fitting process, which can lead to an unhappy ending.
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Find a Pro
Finding the right hearing solution depends on a number of important variables, beginning with your hearing care professional. Work with an expert who determines your lifestyle and listening needs, and then matches the technology to meet those needs. Once you’ve found that hearing care partner and have selected your technology, establish a schedule of follow-up visits to make sure that your devices are addressing your needs, and that you have a successful fit.
Know the Market
Features like adaptive directional microphones and feedback suppression can make a tremendous difference in hearing results. Directional microphones are useful in noisy environments. They tend to pick up speech or the primary source of interest and reduce competing sounds, making conversation much easier. Today’s hearing aids also include automatic feedback suppression, which greatly reduces the chances of high-pitched feedback or whistling. Remember, many fitters carry just a few brands, making it a good idea to look around at what else is available on the market. You can then discuss what you’ve found with your hearing care professional. Doing so will help ensure that you’re making the right choice for your individual needs.
Get Ready to Reconnect
In a recent study, half of hearing aid users said that their hearing aids improved their relationships, and one-third of the respondents even saw improvements in their romantic lives.6
Whatever your reason may be for not using your hearing aids, the truth is that you’re missing the chance to fully connect. Whether it’s details on the big project in the office, the latest gossip in a classroom hallway, or a heartfelt moment with your significant other, hearing is a critical part of your daily life.
You may try to convince yourself and others in your life that you’re doing fine without hearing well, but the truth is that situations can slowly deteriorate without your knowing it, leading to increased frustration and social isolation.
Ready to get back into life at full volume? The first thing to do is be honest about why you’re not wearing your hearing aids. Then, come up with a realistic solution, set goals, and reward yourself for reaching them. Who knows? The sounds you recapture may very well become rewards in themselves!
1, 2 – Hearing Well in a Noisy World. ConsumerReports.org. July 2009.
3 – Listening Up in a Down Economy: Better Hearing Institute Launches Public Service Campaign for Better Hearing and Speech Month. Better Hearing Institute. 2005.
4, 5, 6 – Hearing Aids Improve Quality of Life, Empower People with Hearing Loss to Stay Socially Active. Better Hearing Institute. 2011.