By Tosha R. Hodgson, BA, MClSc, Aud(C), Registered Audiologist & Hearing Instrument Practitioner
Getting just the right fit and performance can be a complex and frustrating process, but it’s important to persevere, seek help, and find the perfect solution for you.
I have yet to see any drawers—bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, or otherwise—sport a pair of human pinna that would benefit from hearing better; yet there inside, hearing aids often rest.Over the years, I have listened to clients report a variety of reasons for not wearing hearing aids. Rationales range far and wide: too much background noise, poor fit, too finicky to handle, “I don’t want to become dependent on them,” batteries need to be changed too often, poor sound, cannot use with a telephone, “I only wear them when I go out somewhere,” or “There is nothing I need to hear at home.”
Having hearing loss means missing certain sounds. Consistently missing these sounds means the hearing nerves and auditory processing centres of the brain are deprived of stimulation. Nerves need stimulation to work optimally.
Just like a body needs exercise to stay healthy, the auditory system needs to hear and interpret sound to stay healthy. Untreated hearing loss can compromise a person’s ability to understand speech. Some say, “I’m not interested in what people say anyway!” Perhaps not. But the brain still needs an opportunity to make that decision in real time to keep its active listening skills honed and fine-tuned.
No one can predict with absolute certainty when an important sound or conversation is going to occur that may require a decision or reaction. Smoke alarms, a knock on the door, an oven timer, a telephone call, someone crying out for help, a refrigerator breaking down and making an unusual noise, a tap left running, a friend stopping by, a hypoglycemia alarm, a car approaching, and so on. Hearing aids help keep wearers safe and aware of surroundings, help wearers participate in conversation, and even help wearers enjoy some “sounds of silence” like birds chirping, distant chatter of children in a playground, book pages turning, an old dog snoring softly beside a chair, or the dip of a paddle in a lake during an early morning solo canoe trip.
Unfortunately, some people do have a bad first experience with hearing aids. It is important to not give up! Identify what failed and discuss the specific issues with your hearing care professional. Oftentimes, problems that may seem significant can be remedied with troubleshooting, hearing aid modifications, programming, instruction, or counselling.
It is also important to remember that hearing care professionals can vary widely in educational backgrounds, clinical experience, and workplace environments. It is usually best to try to remedy hearing aid problems with your original hearing care professional first. If hearing aid problems persist, sometimes seeking help from a different hearing care provider can be very helpful. A fresh set of eyes on a problem can lead to some very positive outcomes.
Some people just absorb hearing aid failure without ever notifying their hearing care professional of problems. If they don’t know a problem exists, hearing care professionals cannot remedy it. It is important to communicate details with your provider as best as you can.
Hearing aids are a big investment and being properly fit with hearing aids is complex. The key to persevering is to trust the process. True, the process can be long in some cases, but hearing aids do work and generally become increasingly more comfortable to wear with consistent use. The process takes time.
Hearing aid technology is improving all the time. When looking for hearing aids, it is important to ensure multiple brands, options, and features are presented to you, along with pros and cons of each. Without access to all options from all manufacturers, the best solutions for you might never be considered or tried.
If you have tucked away hearing aids that did not work for you for some reason, have them cleaned and checked, then try them again. Identify the specific problems you have with them and seek the services of an experienced hearing care professional. There might be a quick fix that has not yet been tried or it might be time to explore new technologies that may be better suited to your needs.
What’s new in hearing aids for fall 2017?
Overall, hearing aids with rechargeable battery options and hearing aids capable of connecting directly to a variety of sound sources—such as cell phones, computer tablets, and televisions—have flourished this year.
ZPower is a company that has been an industry leader in rechargeable battery technologies in a variety of industries. As of late, ZPower has been successfully tackling the hearing aid and wearable electronics industries. More and more hearing aid manufacturers are collaborating with ZPower to make hearing aids rechargeable and less taxing on the environment. ZPower developed “…a proprietary, patent-protected silver-zinc rechargeable microbattery that offers the highest energy density and exceeds the safety and environmental benefits of any other rechargeable microbattery on the market.”1 ZPower batteries use a water-based chemistry that is non-flammable and safe for medical applications such as hearing aids. Silver-zinc batteries can be made smaller than lithium-ion or NiMH batteries while still being able to deliver more energy than equally sized rechargeable lithium-ion or NiMH batteries. Some hearing aid manufacturers have taken steps to make their older, non-rechargeable hearing aids backwards-compatible with ZPower’s batteries and recharging equipment. Check with your hearing care professional to learn if your hearing aids can be converted into a rechargeable version.
Many hearing aid manufacturers now offer hearing instruments capable of directly connecting wirelessly to various electronics, such as cell phones and tablets, and more manufacturers are expected to follow suit. The benefit of these hearing instruments is that they help a person hear more clearly on their phone or tablet, and do so privately, as opposed to using a speaker. They are also capable of connecting wirelessly to a variety of helpful accessories, such as a TV listening box that will transmit TV sound directly into a person’s hearing instruments. With this box, the volume of the TV itself can be turned all the way down and the hearing aid wearer can enjoy crisp, clean, sound directed straight into their ears at whatever volume they prefer. Not only is this beneficial to the aid wearer but also to others watching TV at the same time who have normal hearing and do not need the volume set high. n
Tosha R. Hodgson, BA, MClSc, Aud(C), Registered Audiologist and Hearing Instrument Practitioner, has more than 17 years of clinical experience testing hearing, prescribing and fitting hearing aids and assistive devices, and providing hearing protection. Tosha opened Rockwell Audiology in Vernon to offer patients an unbiased, manufacturer-independent, medical model of hearing health care. She is authorized to assess and treat individuals of all ages and special needs populations. Call 250-545-2226 or visit www.rockwellaudiology.ca.
*Reprint from our Fall 2017 Issue