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5 things that affect your success with hearing aids

Whether or not a person responds well to hearing amplification can be influenced by a variety of factors

Do you worry about trying hearing aids because a friend has told you they “don’t work” or feel uncomfortable? The truth is there are a lot of factors that influence whether hearing instruments will be successful for you. That’s why it’s key to have an expert guide you through the process.

1) The degree and shape of your hearing loss

The first thing that can affect your success with hearing aids is the shape and degree of your hearing loss.

People with the combination of good low frequency hearing and significant high frequency hearing loss (ski-slope shape) need a higher level of technology (a “smarter” hearing instrument) than someone with the same amount of hearing loss across all frequencies or “flat” shape of loss.

Each individual’s unique pattern of hearing determines what level of technology will best meet their need.

2) Hearing instrument style

Hearing aids not only differ in terms of technology and how they capture sound, but also in how they are worn. There are a variety of styles, from those that fit completely inside the ear to those which sit behind the ear. Not all styles are appropriate for everyone.

Choosing the correct style is very important to sound quality and comfort, and a person’s shape and degree of hearing loss will also determine what style hearing instrument they should choose.

If the wrong style of hearing aid is chosen, it could interfere with your success with instruments.

3) The ability to tolerate background noise

Background noise is one of the most common complaints of those who wear hearing aids. This is due in part because the background noise can become more noticeable to some people who have gradually lost the ability to hear the normal background sounds that everyone hears.

Some people can tolerate background noise better than others. In fact, researchers in 2006 found that a person’s ability to tolerate background noise was related to whether they could successfully accept and use hearing instruments. This same study found that some people are naturally more tolerant of background noise while others are naturally bothered more by background noise.

So what can be done to help people who don’t tolerate background noise very well?

The best solution is to select a higher technology level of hearing instrument. The higher level technology (“smart”) hearing instruments are able to make background noise more comfortable.

4) Speech discrimination and auditory processing

Hearing aids can make sounds audible, but if a person’s brain is not processing the sound well because of age, then speech may still not be 100 percent distinguishable.

A smart hearing instrument (one that uses a high level of technology) is needed in this situation to help an individual with processing issues — especially in noisy situations.

5) Unrealistic expectations

Hearing aids can accomplish amazing things, and thanks to today’s technologies, people who use amplification systems can can listen with less effort and stress. However, hearing instruments cannot restore normal hearing.

Here are some of the common misconceptions about what hearing instruments can do:

  1. Hearing instruments can restore hearing to normal levels.
  2. Hearing aids can help you hear 100 percent of what someone is saying in quiet as well as noisy situations.
  3. Hearing instruments block out all background noise.
  4. You can wear hearing aids like sunglasses — only when you need them.
  5. All hearing instruments are alike.

In fact, the goal of using hearing instruments is to boost speech sounds so that they are audible. Listening with hearing instruments makes joining in conversations less effortful and more natural and pleasurable. Your confidence will increase as you realize you are “your old self” again, enjoying the easy give and take of conversation once again.

Remember, hearing is important for quality of life. Just because you have a friend who was not successful with hearing instruments, does not mean you will be too. Every person has unique hearing needs, and a variety of factors determine how well hearing aids work for you.