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An audiologist is a professional who specializes in evaluating and treating people with hearing loss. Audiologists hold masters or doctoral degrees from accredited universities with special training in the prevention, identification, assessment and non-medical treatment of hearing disorders. Audiologists conduct a wide variety of tests to determine the exact nature of an individual’s hearing problem, present a variety of treatment options and dispense hearing aids, using the most advanced, computerized procedures.
Audiology is a science dealing with hearing impairments, their detection and remediation.
Properly fitted and well-maintained hearing aids are crucial links to the world of sound and speech. Hearing aids will often make the difference between staying connected to the world around you or not. Experts recommend we get our hearing tested every two years.
The first step is to determine whether you have a hearing loss that will benefit from amplification. The audiologist will perform a thorough hearing test and if a loss is detected, the option of using hearing aids (amplification) will be discussed.
If the results of testing indicated that you will benefit from amplification, our hearing aids evaluation will be performed. At this time your needs will be discussed so that the most appropriate hearing aids can be prescribed. Hearing aids prescription specifies the make, model and settings of an aid that will work best for you.
- Trial Periods: Clinics should offer a minimum 30-day trial period with your new hearing aids. Trial periods are in place for your protection and are essential to allow you to adjust to your hearing aids. Trial is also necessary to determine suitability in your daily life with its unique blend of activities and listening demands. This is your time to try the aid in different listening situations. If you are not satisfied, adjustments can be made or you may choose to return the aid if you are not confident that it helps and that you will wear it. Be sure to ask about any charged incurred if you decide not to keep the hearing aids.
- Costs: The cost of hearing aids can vary widely depending on your needs, choice of technology and choice of vendor. Before you decide to invest in hearing aids, ask questions regarding total cost breakdown, optional charges and customer services offered.
- Some companies have insurance that may cover all or a portion of the hearing aids cost. Check with your insurance about this coverage. You may also be eligible for assistance through third parties, such as Veterans Affairs Canada and Workers’ Compensation Board.
- Adjusting to the way things sound through your hearing aids may take time. This adjustment period may be helped by professional instruction. Communication strategies, environmental counseling, speech reading and information on assistive devices will ultimately help you during the adjustment process.
Different people react differently to using hearing aids. Your age, the severity of your hearing impairment and your acceptance of the need for hearing aids may strongly influence your reaction to hearing with amplified sound.
There is no magic in adjusting satisfactorily to the use of hearing aids. It requires practice and an application of common sense. Do not expect perfection. Accept limited successes as signs of your progress. We offer the following 13 practice exercises to gain the most benefit from your new hearing aids.
- Use hearing aids first in your own home environment.
Your hearing aids amplifies noise as well as it amplifies music or speech. You may be disturbed temporarily by background noise. Concentrate on listening for all of the normal household sounds and try to identify each sound that you hear. Once you can identify background noises, such as the hum of the refrigerator, the roar of an electric fan, the clinking of dishes or the slamming of doors, these noises will tend to be less annoying and distracting to you.
- Wear hearing aids only as long as you are comfortable with it.
Do not attempt to set an endurance record or to wear hearing aids at first during all of your waking hours. If you are fatigued after using the aid for an hour or two, take it off. Let the way you feel be your guide.
- Accustom yourself to the use of hearing aids by listening to just one other person – husband or wife, neighbor or friend.
Talk about familiar topics; use common expressions, names or a series of numbers for practical purposes. After a few days of practice with one person in a quiet environment, try a different listening exercise. Turn on the radio or television and with this auditory distraction, try to understand your companion’s speech.
- Do not strain to catch every word.
The importance of listening carefully and of concentrating on what is being said cannot be overemphasized, but do not worry if you miss an occasional word. Normal hearing persons miss individual words or parts of sentences and unconsciously “fill in ” with the thought expressed. (Keep your eyes on the face of the speaker. Speech reading can be a great help as a supplement to hearing aids.)
- Do not be discouraged by the interference of background noises.
Remember you are learning new habits or, rather, relearning old habits in a new setting. Normal hearing persons are aware of background noises too, but have learned to push them out of conscious awareness. As you learn to discriminate between noise and speech and to identify various background sounds, you also will be able to ignore extraneous noises just as persons with normal hearing do.
- Practice locating the source of sound by listening only.
Localization of sound (the determination of the direction from which the sound comes) often presents a special problem to wearer of hearing aids. Once exercise that helps to develop directional perception is to relax in a chair, keep your eyes closed and have someone speak to you from different places in the room. Each time your helper changes his position, attempt to locate him through the sound of his voice alone.
- Practice to learn to discriminate different speech sounds.
Prepare a list of words that differ in one sound only. For example: food/mood, see/she, could/good, ball/all, feel/peel, gown/down. Have your helper pronounce these words slowly and distinctly. Watch the lip movements closely while you carefully listen for the differences in similar pairs of words.
- Listen to something read aloud.
A good exercise in listening is to have your companion read aloud from a magazine or a newspaper while you follow along with your own copy of the reading material.
- Gradually extend the number of people with whom you talk, sill within your own home environment.
You will find that it is more difficult to carry on a conversation with three or four personas than it is to talk to one. Concentrate mainly on the individual who is tailing the most.
- Gradually increase the number of situations in which you use hearing aids.
After you have adjusted fairly well in your own home to background noise and to conversation with several people at once, you will be ready to extend the use of hearing aids to the supermarket, church, theater and other public places. Turn the volume low to reduce the impact of unfamiliar background noise; so not sit under balconies; move about in different areas of the auditorium or theater until you find a section or a sear where you can hear well.
- Keep hearing aids clean – get into a routine and clean it every morning or every night.
- Beware of moisture that may cause problems with the electronic components.
- Buy a battery tester and check your batteries regularly. Open the battery door or remove the battery completely each night.
- Keep hearing aids in a hard shell container when not in use. Cats, dogs and children will play with them, lose them, eat them, etc.
- Buy a Dri-Aid kit and use it faithfully, especially during hot humid summers. (You can make your own with a jam jar and rice, ask your audiologist for more details.)
- Treat hearing aids to a deep cleaning and maintenance by your audiologist. (This should be done every 6 to 12 months.)
- Do NOT leave hearing aids loose in your pocket or wrapped in Kleenex! Hearing aids often end up in the washing machine and dryer, or thrown out in the garbage and then it’s game over.
- Don’t expect miracles! Hearing aids can help you hear better, but it cannot completely restore your hearing to normal.
Provided by: Moneca Price, Canadian Hearing Society