Telephone ringing, street noise, birds chirping: a good hearing aid brings the world acoustically to life. Once you get used to hearing loss, these many sensory impressions can be a bit overwhelming at first. Don’t let this deter you and take the time you need to get used to your new hearing aid. This includes both the physical sensation of the device in your ear and the actual hearing. One thing is for sure: After some time of getting used to the device, you will not want to miss it anymore!
What can I expect in the first few weeks?
Depending on the severity of the hearing loss, you may currently only be able to perceive your surroundings in a muffled way or some sounds may not be perceived at all. With a hearing aid, this perception changes abruptly.
Especially during the adjustment period, everyday life can become frighteningly loud. Your own voice may sound different. And the sound of familiar noises may also change. Don’t let this discourage you!
Especially in the beginning, wearing your new hearing aid will take some getting used to. The familiarization phase includes both the physical sensation and the new “hearing”. For example, your ears must first become familiar with the feeling of a device in use. Your brain also suddenly has to perceive and process a lot of stimuli again.
It may have been a long time since you heard the full spectrum of sounds. Many background sounds that people with normal hearing have learned to ignore will sound new to you and therefore be much harder to tune out at first.
As you reacquaint yourself with the many auditory stimuli around you, your brain will also re-learn over time to tune out background noise and focus on the important sounds. Be patient. After a few weeks or months, you won’t even notice that you’re wearing a hearing aid.
What should I keep in mind during the habituation phase?
Give yourself time
Normally, you tune out unimportant auditory stimuli such as the rustling of leaves or the typing of keys in an office. But when you stop noticing these sounds, your brain forgets how to deal with them. So the sound-processing brain centers not only have to learn that everything sounds a little different with a hearing aid, but also that they have to filter some sounds again. This can take some time.
Tip – the first few weeks with a hearing aid
To help your brain get used to normal sound levels again and resume its filtering duties, you should wear the hearing aid regularly. It is important to gain experience and not give up hastily.
Familiarize yourself with the handling
An important point that can help you get used to using your new hearing aid on a daily basis is to familiarize yourself with how to use it. Have your hearing care professional explain how to insert and remove the hearing aid and practice it regularly. Also learn about proper care, maintenance, and cleaning of the hearing aids. Try out the different settings and “hear” the differences.
Use the device at home first
First, use your hearing aid device in a quiet environment. This will make it easier for you to recognize and correctly classify sounds without being disturbed by street or conversation noise. You should also make sure to keep the environment as quiet as possible during daily use.
Tip – Get used to hearing aids slowly
You do not have to wear your new hearing aid in your ear all day. If the sound impressions become too intense for you, take the hearing aid out for a moment. Start by wearing it for a few hours and increase the wearing time from day to day until you can wear it from morning to night.
Taking a walk in nature can also help you get used to your hearing aid. There, without a lot of background noise, you can pay particular attention to soft sounds: the rustling of leaves, birds chirping, or the splashing of water in a fountain.
Gradually use technical devices
Try watching TV and listening to the radio with your hearing aids. News broadcasts are particularly recommended for an initial test. The speakers in these are well trained and therefore speak clearly. One news item follows the other and there is hardly any background noise such as background music or sound effects.
You can test the phone call with a friend. It is best to turn down the volume beforehand and adjust it properly during the conversation. If you need additional accessories to optimize telephone conversations or the sound of your TV, ask your hearing care professional for advice.
Venture into conversational situations
The first conversations with your hearing aid should take place in a relaxed atmosphere. It is advisable to have only one or two conversation partners and to be in a quiet environment without background noise, such as TV or noise from household appliances. Explain to your conversation partners the consequences of reduced hearing in communication and how they can help you in conversations.
There are some useful tips for conversations that can also help you in later situations with more ambient noise:
Choose an optimal listening position! The microphones in hearing aids are usually facing forward. If the speaker sits behind or to the side of you, it will be harder for you to understand him. So position yourself opposite the person you are talking to, preferably vis-à-vis. This way you can also see the mouth movements better.
If you are conducting a conversation in a larger group, ask the participants to observe conversational discipline. Speaking clearly and talking in succession helps immensely with understanding. Conversations sometimes develop quickly. Don’t get frustrated if you can’t follow the conversation at times. Ask again later if someone can summarize what was said for you.
Pay attention to facial expressions and gestures! If you consciously pay attention to what mouth movements your conversation partner makes, you can learn to translate these into words. The brain already uses this technique unconsciously to understand mumbled words. With a little practice, you can specifically train and use this ability.
The final step: Loud environments
Once you have become somewhat accustomed to your hearing aid, try wearing it in environments with a lot of and loud ambient noise, such as on the street or in restaurants. It is a good idea to test how well you can filter background noise and converse in these places.
How can I train my hearing?
Street noise, announcements on the train platform, or a babble of voices in a café are a challenge for the hearing. In such situations, it is often difficult to understand everything or to concentrate on the person you are talking to. Hearing aids can help in these cases, but understanding what is being said is the brain’s job. Fortunately, this can be trained. Here are five practical exercises for everyday life:
Directional hearing is extremely important, especially in road traffic, for example, to hear an approaching ambulance in time and to be able to react. You can practice this by going to a busy place and “picking out” certain sounds. This could be a conversation, heel shoes, or dogs barking. Try to identify different sounds and also the direction from which they come. This will give you additional training in concentration and working memory.
sounds and emotions
Take a few minutes, sit on a park bench or on the balcony and close your eyes. Focus on the individual sounds you notice and pay attention to the emotions they trigger. Certain sounds are usually associated with a particular emotion or memory. Unpleasant sounds, for example, are easier to tune out the better and faster they are recognized.
Most people are overwhelmed in crowded rooms with high noise levels. For people with hearing loss, understanding here is additionally exhausting. A common consequence is a withdrawal from such situations. But this does not have to be the case if you practice “targeted listening”. Find a situation with a high noise level, for example, a restaurant or a train station concourse, and concentrate exclusively on one sound source. Selective listening gets better and better with time.
This exercise is a small step up from the previous one. Ask two people to place themselves to your left and right. Both of them now start to tell you something and your task is to follow both stories. This will train your ability to listen in both directions and improve your understanding of speech, which can be very beneficial in noisy situations.
understanding without words
Unconsciously, when listening, we also pay attention to the gestures and especially facial expressions of our counterpart. This also helps us to understand what is being said in the right context. Train this ability by, for example, switching the news on TV to mute and trying to understand the report only on the basis of the speaker’s lip, cheek, tongue, and throat movements.