“I don’t wear my hearing aids when I’m just at home by myself.”
As an audiology assistant, an important part of my job is calling to check on new hearing aid users after their initial hearing aid fitting. What I’m looking to hear during this conversation is that the hearing aids are comfortable and clear, that you’re successfully getting them into and out of your ears, and that you’re wearing your hearing aids as much as possible to adjust to all the new sounds around you. When I occasionally hear the statement “I haven’t really worn them because I’ve just been home by myself,” I put on my hearing aid educator hat and explain why that harmless act is, in fact, not harmless at all.
Sometimes it’s in an effort to save batteries, but most of the time, new hearing aid users simply don’t know how beneficial and necessary it is to wear their hearing aids, even in quiet situations.
Let’s set the scene. You’re at home by yourself. How are you spending your time? Perhaps you’re making your way through the 2019 New York Times best sellers in hardcover fiction. Without your hearing aids, you may not hear the crisp turning of a page, the sound of your fingertip gently brushing across the surface, or the thump of the book as you set it down on a table to go grab a glass of sweet tea. You may not hear the sound of that tea pouring into a glass, or the hum of the refrigerator as you open the door to put the bottle back in place. Birds chirping outside your window, leaves rustling in the warm breeze – all of these sounds will be lost on you.
“Why do I need to hear those sounds anyway?” you may ask. Just as with taste and touch, sounds, even the subtle sounds we don’t consciously notice, enrich our perception of the world around us. When not wearing your hearing aids, not only are you missing out on the simple pleasures of the environment around you, but you’re also missing out on opportunities to allow your brain to automatically process, recognize, and categorize sounds. Our ears and the auditory nerve are the vehicle we use to send messages to our brain, but our actual understanding of sounds happens in the brain. So, when you have a hearing loss and don’t wear your hearing aids, even in calm situations, you are depriving your brain of important stimuli and exercise it needs.
According to research, the sooner hearing loss is addressed and the more consistently you wear your hearing aids, the better your overall success with hearing aids will be. The brain takes time to adjust to hearing amplified sounds — it’s a process. If you only wear your hearing aids when you go out into more challenging listening environments, your brain may not be accustomed to processing amplified sounds, leading to potential overwhelm. The more comfortable your brain becomes hearing through your hearing aids, the easier it will be to perceive amplified sounds as natural. To phrase that in another way: Not wearing your hearing aids in quiet will make it more difficult for your brain to accept the amplified signals when you are wearing hearing aids in noisier environments, like at a restaurant.
By partnering with ACA, you’ve made an incredible investment in yourself and a commitment to a higher quality of life. So, wear your hearing aids. Allow them to work for you — from the time you wake up in the morning to the time you go to sleep. You will be more connected to the environment around you at all times, not just when you’re in a noisy restaurant. Above all, be patient and consistent. Trust in the process, and trust in the hearing health professionals who are here to work with you to achieve your very best hearing.