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What should I expect from a new hearing aid?

When you get a new hearing aid, initially you may feel that things sound very funny. But if you wear your hearing aids every day, for most of the time that you're awake or all the time that you're awake, your brain will very rapidly become accustomed to the sound that it's hearing. It begins to use that new information in a way to make sound and speech more easily heard and more easily understood. But it does take practice. You don't just put hearing aids on and away you go hearing well. You begin to retrain your ears, and more importantly, retrain your brain how to listen and how to interpret sounds that perhaps you haven't been hearing for many years.

Hearing aids don't provide normal hearing, and if you have hidden hearing loss with no change on your hearing test or no abnormality on your audiogram, hearing aids may or may not be helpful. So that's definitely something to discuss with your audiologist. There may be other technologies that you can use that might be more helpful, for instance, a remote microphone to better pick up speech at a distance or in noise.

Dr. David M. Vernick, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT Specialist)

Before you walk out of the dispenser's office, be sure you are reasonably comfortable with your new hearing aid. The hearing aid shouldn't slip around or hurt. Sounds should be louder than before, but not so loud that they bother your ears. For the most part, sounds shouldn't be shrill or disturbing in other ways. But that isn't to say that everything will be perfect. Hearing aids have their limitations, especially in the beginning.

The first thing many new users notice is that sounds seem strange. Remember that even the best hearing aids are not as good as natural hearing, so sounds aren't completely normal, much as a voice doesn't sound the same on a tape recorder or a telephone as it does in person. Your own voice may sound deeper to you than normal. Another reason some sounds will seem odd is that you'll probably be hearing things that you haven't heard in a long time. One audiologist tells of a patient who called her to complain about a hissing sound. It turned out that the patient was hearing the radiator.

You may also be more aware than ever before of your footsteps, your car's motor, the sounds you make as you chew your food, and just about any other environmental noise. Many hearing aids can be adjusted to lower the volume of unwanted noise, but more importantly, with time, your brain will get better at tuning it out. The more you wear your hearing aids, the more easily your brain will adjust to the changes.

Although background sounds will seem louder than before, you may find that the hearing aid doesn't do one of the things you'd most hoped that it would: help you understand all the words you've been missing in conversations. You should be able to understand more words with the hearing aid than without. If you can't, the hearing aid may need some fine-tuning. But wearing a hearing aid won't guarantee that you'll catch every single word. Hearing every word isn't necessary. The goal is for you to be able to follow conversation easily in various environments. You should continue to rely on the visual cues that you've been using all along to understand words, like lip movements, facial expressions and hand gestures.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.