Many people assume that after being fit with new hearing aids, their hearing will be “perfect.” Some even expect that hearing aids give you “bionic hearing.” While hearing aids will improve your hearing dramatically, it is important to have realistic expectations when treating a hearing loss.
Unlike with glasses, treating hearing loss is a gradual process. It takes time to fully adapt to better hearing with hearing aids. Your ears need to adapt to the many new sounds of life, but so does your brain!
This adaptation process to better hearing is very different from person to person. Some people adapt within a matter of weeks, while others may take up to six months or more. There are so many different factors to consider when we think about outcomes with hearing aids such as:
- Your age
- Your degree of hearing loss
- Your severity of hearing loss
- Your word understanding ability
- The performance/technology level of your hearing aids
- Your listening environments
- Whether or not you are also using communication strategies
- Your personality. People who tend to be more sensitive to sounds around them may take longer to adapt than those who are less bothered by sounds around them, ie: some people are more bothered by sounds like traffic noise than others.
- How often you wear your hearing aids. Those who wear their hearing aids during all waking hours from the very beginning adapt much quicker than those who only wear them occasionally at first. It is crucial to wear hearing aids all day to establish this new "normal" and to fully benefit from your hearing aids. This is important all the time; whether you are still adapting to your new hearing aids or if you are an experienced hearing aid user.
For example, someone with a mild hearing loss and excellent word understanding who treats their hearing loss right away will likely adapt quicker and notice more benefits than someone with a more severe hearing loss with poorer word understanding ability who waited longer to treat their hearing loss. However, it is important to remember there are exceptions to every rule.
So what can I expect after being fit with hearing aids? What is a realistic expectation and what is unrealistic?
Some realistic expectations – what hearing aids can do!
- You will have an easier time understanding speech in quiet environments
- You will have an easier time understanding speech in noisier environments; but will still experience more difficulty than in quiet environments due to the competing background noise
- You should be able to hear people who are close to you
- An improvement in your relationships and quality of life
- A decrease in your listening effort overall
Some unrealistic expectations – what hearing aids cannot do:
- Being able to hear someone speaking or yelling from another room
- Some situations will remain challenging, such as hearing a conversation in a noisy area
- No hearing aid will eliminate ALL background noise (depending on the technology level of your hearing aid(s), some are better at reducing distracting background noise than others)
- A hearing aid cannot “restore” normal hearing – when hearing loss is treated with hearing aids, we are dealing with a damaged auditory system
Other things to expect after being fit with hearing aids:
- Your own voice will sound louder or unnatural; it may sound like you are speaking into a microphone. This will go away once your brain slowly adapts to your hearing aids.
- Soft sounds you have not heard in a long time will be more noticeable, and perhaps annoying to you at first. Again, this is only temporary!
- Certain sounds may always be annoying – such as dishes clanging, babies crying and loud motorcycles driving by
A general rule of thumb is: if someone with normal hearing cannot hear something or experiences difficulty hearing in certain situations, you can expect the same when wearing your hearing aids.
Some examples of situations that will always be challenging:
- Conversations in very noisy restaurants with loud music and hard surfaces. These types of situations are challenging for almost everyone. The louder the background noise is and the more reverberant (echoey) the room is, the harder it will be.
- Understanding people who speak very softly or mumble
- Understanding the dialogue of some movies with a lot of action sounds (explosions and music in the background) with actors who are speaking under their breath or not speaking clearly. Furthermore, any film or television show that is poorly produced with a poor signal-to-noise ratio; that is, the background sounds are too loud in comparison to the sounds you want to hear, such as speech.
- Hearing someone from another room
- Understanding the lyrics to certain songs if the singer is not enunciating their words properly
- Difficulty understanding people wearing face masks especially when you are communicating through plexiglass such as hearing the cashier at the grocery store. Since the start of the pandemic, many people have reported these situations to be challenging.
If you have questions or would like to schedule a consultation with one of our certified audiologists, give us a call at 902-865-4455 (Lower Sackville) or 902-465-4334 (Downtown Dartmouth)!