Dr. Curtis's Tips for Hearing Aid Success

5 Steps To Success With Your Hearing Aids

This June, I will have been an audiologist for 10 years. I’ve worked in various settings – VA hospital, speech and hearing center, hospital, retail, and now my own private practice. I’ve cared for infants, children, working adults, and geriatrics. I’ve seen patients from all walks of life and from opposite financial ends of the spectrum. I have fit A LOT of hearing aids which makes me happy – I am a self-professed hearing aid nerd. I have fit people with their first pair of hearing aids and I have fit those who have been aided for years.

My patients have success with their hearing aids – usually. I have brought success to people who have previously given up. For you, I would like to offer my tips to success. Whoever you are, whatever your loss, these steps will give you your best possible outcome.:

1) A comprehensive diagnostic examination by someone who knows what your results mean both independently and in relation to your lifestyle, health, and listening difficulties.

The same thresholds can look quite differently on two different people. Word recognition ability in quiet may be excellent or may be poor. Understanding of speech in quiet and ideal signal to noise ratios may vary greatly

Your audiologist should minimally utilize tests of hearing thresholds for tones, your ability to understand recorded words, and a speech-in-noise test such as the QuickSIN. Additionally, subjective pre-fitting outcome measures such as a COSI (Client-Oriented Scale of Improvement), HHIA (Hearing Handicap Inventory for Adults), or APHAB (Abbreviated Profile of Hearing Aid Benefit) may assist in both establishing rehabilitative goals and measuring the effectiveness of your rehabilitation at a later date.

2) Effective counseling on your results, realistic expectations, and communication strategies

Hearing aids do not fix damage to the inner ears. They do not undo years of auditory depravation. They do not make background noise disappear. They do not allow you to hear your wife’s voice when you are two rooms away and she is talking into the sink while you watch the game. They are amplifiers which means, when fit well, they will be loud! And you will hear sounds you haven’t heard in decades which may leave you in auditory overload. That’s OK. You’ll get there.

When patients think that their outcomes will look very different and much easier and better than is possible, they tend to be quite disappointed with their initial outcome. My job as an audiologist is to send my patients out ready to face their rehabilitative journey. A smart man once told me that getting hearing aids is far more like getting an artificial hip than a new car. That new hip is going to feel AWFUL for a few weeks, maybe a few months, but after you put in the time to rehabilitate, eventually you will be thrilled you went through all that.

3) A patient- and family-driven rehabilitative plan that may or may not include traditional amplification as well as additional rehabilitative tools.

Not all patients have the same listening needs or the same abilities, They may have a plethora of support or, unfortunately, be facing the treatment of their loss alone. Finding the technology that is best for your individual situation and coming up with a plan unique to you is so important. There is no cookie-cutter patient.

4) An accurate, rehabilitative fitting with real-ear verification. 

I cannot stress this enough. There is no longer an excuse to fit hearing aids based on manufacturer algorithms, fitter instincts, guesswork, and patient feedback. We know that can result in patients being over- or, more often, under-fit and not being able to reach their rehabilitative goals. 

Asking me to fit without verification would be like asking a surgeon to operate without a light. Everything would be approximate. But no two patients’ ears are the same and, just as you would be very upset if your surgeon operated on you with poor visibility, you should be upset if you are being fit without verification.

5) Last but not least, WEAR YOUR HEARING AIDS FULL TIME!

Was that loud? I’m sorry. But that’s the most important thing you can do. All of the above can be completed but if you don’t wear your hearing aids all day, “like part of your outfit” I tell my patients, your brain will never acclimate. You will never adjust to hearing through your hearing aids. You will never learn that all these tiny little sounds happen in your house all day when it is “quiet,” sounds you must learn to put in your background. You will not do well in noisy situations because you’re not even doing well in quiet situations. Your hearing aids will always be “too loud” (which, if verification was used, they are not). You will never get to a great point with your hearing aids

So please, wear your hearing aids. We want you to do well. I spend a lot of time on this with my patients – at their test, at their fitting, and at their follow-ups. I bet my patients see a tiny version of me pop up on their shoulder when they forget to put them on, or aren’t wearing them all waking hours. I tell my patients: “You have my full permission to curse me under your breath all day long, as long as you’re doing it with the hearing aids on.” You are driving your own destiny here. Just like that new hip requires you to go to physical therapy and work out at home, your success is in your hands.

Bottom Line: You Can DO This! Success is in your grasp. Don’t give up. Find a provider who will check all these boxes for you – all the boxes EXCEPT number 5. That’s all you. The time has never been better to treat your hearing loss. Give yourself a break and hear better now.


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