“I only wear my hearing aids when I need them.”
As an audiologist I hear this occasionally from first time hearing aid users. My response is usually, “You ALWAYS need them!”
Wearing hearing aids inconsistently interrupts how quickly and easily you get used to the devices. When a person initially starts wearing aids, sounds can seem tinny or harsh. This is because most patients lose their hearing gradually over time, so their brains gradually get used to less and less high frequency stimulation. When we fit you with hearing aids, you get a lot of that high frequency information back all at once, and your brain isn’t quite sure what to make of all this new sound!
Our brains are plastic, which means they can change and learn. No matter how old your brain is, it can adapt to new stimulation. It is important to present your brain with a consistent stimulation, so the hearing aids become the new normal. There is a cycle that occurs with some patients: the new hearing aids seem tinny at first, so they take them out, and then when they put them back in, the tinny sound is there again. If the patient kept the aids in throughout the day, in a vast majority of cases, the brain would get used to those added high frequencies and the sounds would mellow out. This takes 5 days to three weeks, but it’s worth it!
Patients often use the “shower” excuse for why they don’t wear the hearing aids first thing in the morning. “When I wake up I just have breakfast, and read the paper and then I take a shower, so I don’t want to put them in first thing, I wait until after my shower.” First thing in the morning, our brains tend to be well rested. We are more open to re-wiring our neural pathways in the morning after a night’s rest. Morning is a very important time to wear the hearing aids. Even if no one is home, even if it’s just you and the dog and the Wall Street Journal, it’s still important to wear the hearing aids at breakfast. Here is an example why: The newspaper crinkles every time you move the page. We want you to get accustomed to the enhanced sound of paper crinkling with hearing aids in, so that this becomes “old news” to your brain. The more you hear environmental sounds through the hearing aids, the more you re-calibrate your brain to accept this new sound quality as normal.
Of course there are exceptions. Some patients struggle with loudness discomfort: sounds that aren’t actually loud seem uncomfortable. This is rare but there are adjustments that can be made to make sounds audible but comfortable. But for a majority of patients there is some work that goes into getting used to hearing aids. There is an investment of consistent use that is necessary to make sure the brain has gotten used to as much as it can.
This is why I tell my patients, “If you are awake and dry, the hearing aids should be in your ears!”
Jocelyn Dore, Au.D.
Advanced Specialty Care offers complete Audiology care for children through adults. From hearing evaluation, preservation and protection to evaluation and treatment of hearing and balance disorders, we focus on your total hearing health, not just your ability to hear. Call (203) 830-4700 to click here schedule your audiology or hearing aid appointment in one of our 4 convenient offices throughout Connecticut in Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk and Ridgefield.
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