Do you remember when you got your first hearing aid or set of hearing aids? (This could have been just last month, or it might be a few years ago.)
Whenever it was, things were probably LOUD for the first while. You would have heard sounds that you’d rather not hear, like body noises, jets flying overhead, a bird that just never shuts up. You might have heard sounds that you didn’t even know existed or that you’d forgotten about since the last time you heard them was so long ago.
Life can be shocking in those first weeks with hearing aids. Some of us put them in drawers for a while, because it’s all just too much information! But bit by bit, for those who haven’t consigned their expensive new toys to the bedside table drawer, you get used to the sound level. You might even come to the point where you think, “Things aren’t too loud anymore! Does that mean that my hearing aids are making my hearing worse?”
This is a common fear, but there’s no need to worry; your brain has simply become accustomed to the new sound levels to the point that they sound ‘normal’. But trust me, you are hearing better. If you don’t believe me, take out your hearing aid(s) and listen. Pretty quiet, hmm? When you put your hearing aids back in, you’re like “Aahh, that sounds better!”
By this point, if you haven’t done so already, you’re ready to go beyond the hearing aid to the larger world of assistive technology that works with your hearing aids to give you the best listening-and-comprehension experience possible.
The following list is not complete, but it will give you an idea of what’s available now – and was not available in your parents’ and grandparents’ lives – and which will make your life easier and more stress-free.
- Telecoils and hearing loops: Hopefully, your hearing aid specialist had telecoils put in your hearing aids. This is a simple but powerful technology that, when used with a hearing loop, will bring the speaker’s voice directly into your ears. The telecoil allows you to hear on the phone and the technology is also used in public venues, places of worship and many other applications.
- Closed captioning (CC): Most television shows and streamed programs are captioned, showing not only what’s being said, but showing sound effects (wind howling) and emotional clues (eerie music). The CC can be formatted to your tastes, and once your family gets used to it, they won’t even notice it. They may start using it, too!
- Smartphone technology: Smartphones can do anything – truly! Many apps and programs will work with your hearing aids, or will provide text interpretation of conversations you’re having. Check it out.
- Microphones: Many hearing aids have additional technology that brings a speaker’s voice into your ears, through proprietary microphones. Phonak’s Roger pen is one example, and ReSound’s MiniMic2 is another. Ask your audiologist.
Many excellent non-technical strategies will help your hearing aids do their job. The best is simply being open about your hearing loss – because there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of – and letting people know what you need. And what you need is having people face you when talking with you, preferably in a well-lit, low-noise room.
The world of hearing technology is literally yours to explore.
Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for Hearing Health & Technology Matters, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book “The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss”. She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.