Updated: Oct 25
Using hearing aids is definitely not "love at first sight". The first 2 weeks are the most critical time for first-time users of hearing aids. This is the period of making it or breaking it. Most hearing aids users quit in the first couple of weeks of using hearing aids. Read through to learn how to survive the first 2 weeks of using your new hearing aids.
Is wearing hearing aids that scary?
As your audiologist, I would say no. But the reality is that there is still a lot of stigma among people with hearing loss that stops them to start using hearing aids. Hearing loss can be associated with ageing or seen as a disability. This has been improved a lot through national awareness in the UK and in most of the developing nations. However, only a third of those who can benefit from hearing aids use them (see reference here). The other factor stopping people with hearing loss to wear hearing aids is the comfort and the sound of the hearing aids, especially in the first few days of trying them. This is what this article is all about.
What are the common challenges that first-time hearing aid users face and how to fix them?
The little domes in my ears are not comfortable - Regardless of the type of hearing aid, there will be a piece in your ears that was not there yesterday, either the whole hearing aid (in the case of complete-in-canal, complete-in-ear), or the little speaker (we call it receiver), or a dome at the end of a thin tube. It is natural that you can feel it in the first couple of days, but I promise you that after a couple of days, you will stop noticing it. It is ok to feel that piece being in your ear canal, but it is not ok that the piece gives you pain or gives you soar in your ears. the size and the type of the domes are different. I would suggest contacting your audiologist if the feel of the dome is not comfortable.
The little domes in my ear pop out - I have a complete article is the problem of the hearing aid not staying in your ears and how to fix it. In short, as mentioned in the previous item you need to discuss this with your audiologist to explore different shapes and sizes of the dome or even different hearing aid types. This problem often leads to annoying whistling of the hearing aids (called feedback), another common reason why patients quit hearing aids.
Every sound is louder - The reason for this is that the deterioration of the human auditory system is very gradual and subtle. The gradual nature of the decline makes your brain get used to the quieter sounds. This is very similar to when you are in a dark room for a few hours and then go out on a sunny day. It would take some time for your eyes to adjust to the sunlight. In the same way, the moment the user puts on hearing aids for the first time everything sounds louder. It would take 3-6 months for the brain to adjust to the loudness.
I can hear my own voice loudly, like in a tunnel - Hearing your own voice is simply because the little silicon dome in your ear alters the acoustics of your ear canal. Plus, your hearing aid receives some of your own voice through its super sensitive microphones and when amplified it feels that you hear your own voice louder than before, The intensity of these two phenomenons (items 3 and 4) depend on the severity of your hearing loss, and the type and the frequency range of your hearing loss. But the good news is that both the loudness of the overall surrounding sound and hearing your own voice would start disappearing within the next 3-6 months of wearing your hearing aids. Having said that, by no means you should expect excessive occlusion or excessive loudness when you start with a pair of hearing aids for the first time. If you wear your hearing aids and feel that every sound is too loud or you hear your own voice very loudly, then contact your audiologist immediately.
My hearing aids don't sound natural - Last week I visited a patient in Dulwich who had been prescribed a pair of NHS hearing aids about 4 years ago, but he decided that they are not good right in the first week of using them and put them in the drawer since. Now his hearing had gone lower hence called me for a new hearing test and hearing aid consultation. The main reason why he didn't use his hearing aids appears to be "the sound of the hearing aids were strange, very unnatural". The level of the technology of the hearing aids is a factor in how natural they sound. But also other factors such as the dome size and shape, the prescription formula, the fitting and gains applied and the list goes on and on. Knowing that hearing loss could impact your memory and cognitive power my advice to the patients is to be persistent and call their audiologist for a follow-up. I learned that the follow-up calls and visits in the first two weeks of the fitting session are critically important in the engagement of the patient in his or her new hearing aids. In HearignNow we do call and Zoom meetings with customers in the first 4 weeks to make sure that your hearing aids are comfortable, sound loud, clear and natural and all in all you are enjoying them.
Looking after hearing aids is not fun - All good things in life come at a cost and hearing better is not an exception. Yes, you'll have to look after your hearing aids to ensure their best performance and this adds a little routine to your daily life, but let's see how much extra work this is. Every night, you remove them and keep them in a safe and clean place (away from pets and little children). Then:
Cleaning - In the morning you brush them, especially over the microphones (did your audiologist show you where to brush?), and wipe them with a clean wipe (ask your pharmacist for a wipe to clean your hearing aids). You need to make sure that you wipe the silicon domes or the parts that go in your ear canal (CIC/ITE/ITC) to kill the bacteria that might be settling on them during the night. This would avoid ear infections. The other reason to wipe the hearing aids is to avoid the receivers (in the case of RIC) or domes (in the case of BTE) getting blocked with ear wax.
Battery/Charging - You drop them in their charger every night or replace the batteries every week or anytime that you receive the low-battery signal (usually a melody).
When I was a teen my father said that if you want to build any habit (waking up early, picking up a new sport, etc.) you need to be strong to go through the first 3 weeks. After that your brain gets used to the habit, the difficulties of the routine will start disappearing and the fun part of it starts shining.
Same with your new hearing aids. All it takes is your persistence in the first 2 to 3 weeks and then you start getting into the routine and the fun of hearing better would begin.