Once your hearing loss has been identified, it is essential that you become informed of all of the options available to help improve your communication. There is a common misconception that hearing aids are “THE” solution for hearing loss. It is our goal to make sure you enter into this process with realistic goals and clear expectations. Our audiologists offer a range of aural rehabilitation services, hearing conservation training and other auditory training activities.
The first step in the aural rehabilitative process is ensuring that you are an informed consumer. Your Doctor of Audiology will explain all aspects of your hearing loss including the type and degree of hearing loss, how your hearing loss will impact your communication, rehabilitative recommendations and your ENT physician’s role in your rehabilitation if needed. Being knowledgeable about your hearing loss will assist you in making the best decisions.
If amplification is recommended, your Doctor of Audiology will provide you with written information and a step-by-step explanation of the hearing aid fitting and rehabilitation process. Before beginning this process your Doctor of Audiology will review hearing aid options, the adjustment process, and communication strategies necessary for success with amplification. You will be made aware of all your amplification options as well as the level of support that will continue after being fit with hearing aids.
We highly recommend including family members or others in these auditory training activities and discussions. This will allow your communication partners to better understand the hearing difficulties you are encountering and the options that are available to you.
EXPECTATIONS AND GOALS
Successful use of amplification relies on realistic expectations. Everyone’s expectations for amplification are different so it is important that we assess your unique expectations about amplification. There is a fine line between expecting too much out of your hearing aids and having appropriate expectations. For example, expecting that your hearing will return to “normal” is not a realistic expectation for any hearing aid, but expecting to have increased ease of communication with hearing aids is realistic. Unrealistic expectations often lead to frustration, disappointment and often failure. Including your family and/or significant others in your discussion of goals and expectations will also contribute to successful use of amplification and improved communication.
Establishing your goals for improving your communication will ensure that you and your Doctor of Audiology select the best rehabilitative option for you. For example, if telephone communication is problematic, you will be provided with options to improve your ability to use the telephone effectively. Discussing your work, hobbies, social environment and other interests will help in the decision making process regarding hearing aid features.
HEARING AID FOLLOW-UP
Once you have been fit with hearing aids, the rehabilitation process begins. We will schedule several sessions that include verification of the hearing aid fitting, adjustment counseling and communication training.
Verification of the hearing aid fitting will be done through electroacoustic measures which verify function of the hearing aid and/or subjective measures with your instruments in the sound booth. All of this information will help your Doctor of Audiology make adjustments to ensure that you are successful.
Adjustment to amplification and learning to hear again can be challenging. People are often surprised when they hear a refrigerator noise, windshield wipers, and/or distant noises that they had not heard in years. Because the brain has not received this type of stimulation for the duration of your hearing loss, it may take a while for you to adjust to the new sounds you are hearing.
Initially, your new ability to hear may be overwhelming to you. But as your brain relearns to hear, particularly in noisy situations, you will find communication will become increasingly easier. Adjusting to amplification is as individual as you are. Some people adjust immediately while others take weeks or months to adjust to their new level of hearing. Your Doctor of Audiology will be willing to counsel you through this period in addition to making adjustments to your hearing aids.
Hearing aids are powerful, effective tools for increasing your ability to hear. But hearing aids will not automatically make you a better listener. Once you are fit with hearing aids, it is imperative that your listening skills be resharpened. Your hearing health provider should work with you to improve these skills.
Using visual cues while communicating is essential. People often will say, “I can’t lipread” but, in truth, we all lipread to some degree. The eyes are powerful in taking in visual speech information. The brain then combines the visual speech cues with the hearing cues so that your understanding of the speaker increases. Your Doctor of Audiology will provide you tips on how to improve your use of visual cues in communication in combination with your hearing aids.
Communication also can be improved with the use of communication strategies. Learning where to position yourself in different listening situations (for example, at a party or in a restaurant) can enhance your ability to benefit from your hearing aids. Your Doctor of Audiology will provide information on how to incorporate these strategies into your everyday communication patterns.
THE ROLE OF YOUR FAMILY
Including family members and/or significant others throughout the rehabilitation process is strongly recommended. In addition to learning about your hearing problems and how they can be remediated, family members can learn how to improve their communication skills to facilitate easier communication. It is important that family members understand their roles in communication and how to prevent communication breakdowns.