This simple quiz can help get you started on your path to understanding your hearing health.
1. Do you have difficulty understanding the other person on the telephone?
2. Does it seem like most people around you are mumbling?
3. Is it difficult to understand one person's speech while there is background noise?
4. Do you find it difficult to understand the dialogue on TV unless you turn the volume up high?
5. Do you often need to ask others to repeat themselves?YES NO
We recommend a daily cleaning routine that we show patients in the office. Generally, expect to clean your hearing aids the way we teach you once a day or every few days. If we expect your ears will have more exposure to grit and dust than usual, we'll take a more cautious approach, so let us know if this is a risk for you. We carry drying products and cleaning products to help our patients.
Don't store your hearing aids at night in a bathroom or anywhere moist; that's just asking for moisture problems. Try not to go swimming in the deep end with your hearing aids on - they're not made for that! If you accidentally get into the shower and forget to take them off, you'll hear the water on them. Jump right out and they'll probably be fine. Just try not to make a habit of it.
These days, some hearing aids are rechargeable, which is helpful if you are not comfortable changing batteries. For traditional batteries, it depends on the size of the batteries, the severity of the hearing loss, and how many hours a day you use your hearing aids. For most people, we recommend changing your batteries on the same day each week.
Sometimes, especially if you have had hearing loss untreated for a long time, it can be hard to adapt to hearing again. Your brain may struggle to make sense of the sounds around you. Dr. Meg tells a story about her uncle, who went without hearing aids longer than he should have and had to relearn what the sounds in his house were. When he first got his hearing aids, he walked around his house and identified what he heard to reacquaint himself with the sounds of everyday life.
Dr. Meg suggests being intentional and giving yourself a chance to get used to what you hear around you. She likes to assign "homework" to practice active listening with something you enjoy. If you like to read, audiobooks are a great option; if you prefer movies or television, that works too. Often, when patients are having trouble adjusting, all it takes is active, intentional practice and they get used to the hearing aids much faster.
We recommend bringing your hearing aids to our office for full cleaning at least twice a year; some ears and some hearing aids need to be cleaned more often. We recommend having your hearing tested at least once a year just to make sure we catch any changes to your hearing loss early. Of course, if you notice anything or are concerned about your hearing, we encourage you to come see us just in case. We offer bundled packages of cleaning visits so patients can be in the driver's seat and choose the services they need. Most patients choose to buy packages, but we also offer unbundled visits for patients who prefer to pay as they go.
If your family is complaining about your hearing, there's probably a reason for it. You may not know what you're missing. If you're having trouble hearing certain sounds, don't assume that that's normal - go ahead and get a hearing test. Everybody over the age of 55 should be getting a hearing test, just as a baseline if nothing else. Other than that, if you have had an active sound life (if you're a musician, if you go to a lot of shows, if you've enjoyed a lot of hunting, even when you were younger), come in for a baseline as well.
Hearing loss is so much more important to treat than we used to think. There's extensive research showing a connection to treating even a mild hearing loss with a happier, healthier brain. We have decades of research about socialized relation and depression. We use the phrase "happy brain" - you want to keep your brain engaged. It's not just whether sound is on or off, it's connected to your brain, and you want to keep your brain up and running. Recently there's also been evidence to suggest that hearing loss is connected to dementia, so keeping your ears (and your brain!) happy is a good way to protect yourself against dementia.
If you're having a hard time getting someone you love to have their hearing checked out, try telling them that your audiologist recommended a baseline test after the age of 55. Don't nag them, but let them know that they don't have to commit to anything if they come in for a test. If your loved one does decide to have their hearing tested, we recommend that you come with them for the fitting appointment and at least one follow-up so we can do an in-office test with your voice. That will help you get used to speaking at normal volume when you talk to them, and it will help us make sure that they can hear you clearly. We can also run a simulation of your loved one's hearing loss for you to listen to so you can better understand their perspective.
MYTH: Hearing aids are bulky and ugly.
FACT: Maybe you picture hearing aids as looking like a big piece of bubble gum in your ear, but that hasn't been true for quite some time. Hearing aids today, even the largest available options, are much smaller and more subtle than they used to be while also being vastly more powerful. Also, it's a lot more obvious to people in a social environment when you keep having to ask them to repeat themselves. That makes you look older and draws more attention than if you're wearing discreet hearing aids and following the conversation without trouble. In fact, it's likely people won't even notice you have anything at all on your ears!
MYTH: Hearing aids don't help in a noisy room.
FACT: It's true that noise is our biggest challenge as an industry, and we can't magically make your hearing in loud rooms perfect. However, hearing aids can help a lot. They've come a long way in the past ten years. Some hearing aids can change the direction of your focus manually so you can more easily pay attention to whomever is speaking. But it's not just hearing loss that complicates noisy environments. You have to be able to take in all that sound and really start to pick it apart.
The hearing aids will do some of that for you, but you still need to be able to focus your attention, and that takes practice. Even patients with normal hearing can have trouble hearing in restaurant, and that has nothing to do with their hearing and everything to do with multitasking getting harder as you get older. We'll work through it together with you, helping you practice and talk about strategy because it's not going to be perfect. The good news is that the combination of hearing aids and practice can make it much, much easier.
MYTH: Only people with severe hearing loss need hearing aids.
FACT: You may be able to get by without hearing aids if you have only mild hearing loss, but often we don't realize how severe our hearing loss is until we get it tested and then treated. The sooner you treat your hearing loss, the better your brain will be at adapting to hearing aids and making sense of the sounds you hear. Even mild hearing loss can cause you to miss out on some of the opportunities you have to enjoy things in your life - and there's no reason to risk that when it's easy to get your hearing back.
MYTH: Hearing loss only affects older people.
FACT: Actually, hearing loss can be caused by many things unrelated to age. People who are exposed to loud noises such as amplified live music, gunshot (such as hunting), or construction work may develop hearing loss as a result. Medications and illnesses can also cause hearing loss. And some people simply lose their hearing earlier for genetic reasons. Hearing loss can happen regardless of age - to small children, teenagers, young adults, and older people.