Hearing devices

Selecting a Hearing Device

Selecting a hearing device can often be an overwhelming experience. There are literally hundreds of different models with different features and they come in different shapes and sizes. So how do you know which one will be best for you?

There are a number of factors that your audiologist will consider when making a recommendation for hearing devices. The first consideration is the hearing test results. The type and configuration of your hearing loss can mean that some types of hearing devices are not suitable for your loss. The size, shape and health of your ear canals may also make some devices more suitable than others.

Your audiologist will also want to get an understanding of your lifestyle – the activities that you participate in, the people and places where your hearing loss is most noticeable and the situations that you are hoping to improve with a hearing device. This will help your audiologist to understand which listening situations are most important to you and help them to make a recommendation.

Based on this information your audiologist will be able to recommend what type of hearing device will be most suitable. In most cases hearing aids will be recommended, but if you only have difficulty in one very specific situation such as hearing on the phone then your audiologist may recommend an assistive listening device (ALD) for that specific situation.

If your audiologist recommends hearing aids then they will be able to advise you on which technology will be most suitable based on your lifestyle. Generally speaking people who spend more time in demanding listening situations like background noise will need more sophisticated hearing aids than people who spend more time at home or in other quiet places.

Budget may also play a role in your decision as hearing aids can be very expensive. Be open with your audiologist about what you can afford. They will be able to recommend the best aids for your lifestyle within your budget. They’ll also be able to discuss what you can realistically expect from your aids in more difficult listening environments. 

Fitting hearing devices

All hearing aids and some ALD’s will need to be individually fitted. At your first hearing aid fitting appointment your audiologist will take measurements with the hearing aids on to make sure that they are giving you the right amount of volume based on your hearing test results. This is to ensure that the hearing aids are giving you the best benefit for understanding speech.

When the hearing aids are first turned on your first reaction may be that everything is very loud. This is normal as you aren’t used to hearing all of the sound around you. Turning on hearing aids for the first time is a bit like turning on a light when you’re in a dark room. Because you’ve become adapted to lower input levels it’s a real shock to get the full impact again.

Your audiologist will speak with you during your first fitting appointment and make noises to test how the hearing aids sound. The hearing aids may initially be turned down a bit to ease you into wearing them.  At the first appointment the audiologist will also teach you how to use the hearing aids and how to take care of them.

In most cases your audiologist will see you again after you have had a chance to try the hearing aids in the real world. This will allow the audiologist to make fine tuning adjustments to the device based on your experiences. It is important that you try the hearing aids in all the listening situations that are important to you so that the aids can be fine tuned appropriately.

Success with hearing aids

The key to a successful hearing aid fitting is regular use. The people who get the best outcomes from their hearing aids are the ones that wear their aids every single day for all of their waking hours.

There are two reasons for this. First the hearing aids obviously won’t be helping when they aren’t in your ears, so the more often they’re in the more help you’ll get. But the second and most important reason is that when the hearing aids are in your ears your brain is getting used to the way that the aids sound.  

In most cases hearing loss develops very gradually and you gradually get used to the way that things sound. But when you start wearing hearing aids there is a sudden change in the amount of sound you hear. Initially this change may be unpleasant, but if the aids are worn regularly the brain can adapt and hearing through the hearing aids becomes normal. People who only wear their aids sometimes are constantly having to adjust between hearing through the hearing loss and hearing through the hearing aids. The brain doesn’t have time to find the aids normal and those people will generally be less satisfied with their hearing aids.

Hearing aid maintenance

Hearing aids are electronic devices that are exposed to damaging environments in the ear canal as well as in the atmosphere around your ears. They are regularly exposed to earwax, moisture and dust and so they need regular maintenance.

Hearing aids need to be cleaned after every use where possible. This daily cleaning involves removing any visible wax from the aid.

The most common reasons for hearing aids to stop working are flat batteries or wax blocking the part of the aid where the sound comes out. Your audiologist can teach you how to check if your hearing aid is blocked with wax and how you can remove blocking wax at home. However there will be occasions when you change the battery and clean the wax out and the aid still won’t work. This is when the aid needs to go back to the audiologist.

It is normal for hearing aids to need a service from time to time. Sometimes the audiologist will be able to repair your aid in the clinic and sometimes it may need to be sent back to the manufacturer for a repair.

As well as break-downs it is likely that your aid will need to be adjusted from time to time as your hearing changes. It is likely for most of us as we continue to age that our hearing will gradually deteriorate. It is important to have your hearing checked regularly and have your hearing aids turned up as necessary. When you first purchase your hearing aids your audiologist will usually order a device that has some “head room” – that is some extra volume range to turn things up down the track if your hearing gets worse.