I Hate My Hearing Aids! What Can I Do?
All too often, hearing aids end up catching dust “in the drawer” after a few failed attempts of getting used to them. Given that there is a significant cost involved in purchasing hearing aids, wearing them should be a no-brainer. However, this is not necessarily the case. In this post, we’re picking apart some of the most common reasons why people end up not wearing their hearing aids – and what can be done to get their hearing aids out of the drawer.
Research shows that on average a person will wait seven years between learning they have a hearing loss and obtaining hearing aids. But even then, they don’t seem at all motivated to actually wear them. Why is that so? This article will explain five common reasons hearing aids aren’t worn, and practical tips for what you can do about it.
The Top 5 Reasons Why Hearing Aids Aren’t Worn
My hearing aids sound too tinny
Wearing hearing aids for the first time is going to be a completely new experience. It will most certainly sound a little tinny, not unlike a thin, metallic sound. The reason for this difference is twofold: First, you are hearing through microphones as well as your own ears – your brain needs to adapt. Secondly, most people stop hearing high-pitched sounds first, so when you hear these sounds again the overall sound will be more high-pitched and therefore “tinny”. You should therefore wear your hearing aids as much as possible: The more consistency your brain gets with sound, the more natural this extra sound will become.
Additionally, you may have lost your hearing many years ago, and suddenly you have it all back in one hit. It can be confronting, just like turning on the light after being in a dark room for a while. A trusted audiologist will explain this at the initial hearing aid fitting and trial. Wearing hearing aids is a process and takes time to get used to. If you wear your hearing aids infrequently, each time you do wear them, the acclimatisation process starts again. Even if you live alone, wearing your hearing aids for part of the day, for example watching TV for a few hours at night, can help maintain your hearing, so it becomes and stays natural.
The hearing aid fitting is a team effort between you and your audiologist. The audiologist sets up the hearing aids according to your hearing levels but needs your guidance to
customise the sound quality. Your audiologist should also measure the hearing aids in your ears with little microphones – this is called Real Ear Measures. This is very important as it takes into account your individual ears and how they naturally amplify sound.
If you don’t like the way your hearing aids sound and aren’t sure whether you have had Real Ear Measures performed, then contact your audiologist to enquire, and ask for your hearing aids to be adjusted.
My voice sounds awful
As mentioned above, you are now hearing through microphones as well as your own ears. This means you are hearing your voice from the “outside” rather than just inside your head. If you listen to yourself speaking on a recording, what do you think of your voice then? If you are like most people, you will think it is indeed awful! Luckily, there are a number of things you or your audiologist can try to either help it sound better or help your brain adjust to hearing your voice amplified through hearing aids.
Your audiologist may have recommended a particular hearing aid style for you based on your audiogram. In general, if you can hear low-pitched or deep sounds well, a hearing aid that blocks your ears too much will cause your voice to echo inside your head. Some in-the-ear style hearing aids or earmoulds can cause a physical blockage called occlusion.
Your audiologist can easily check for this, and may physically modify the hearing aid if this is the issue.
If you have an in-the-ear style hearing aid or an earmold, it may have a little hole that runs right through – also called a vent. Keeping the vent clear of wax or debris is crucial, as the vent is going to minimise occlusion. If the occlusion is found to be present, your audiologist may be able to manually widen the vent or change your earmold to reduce occlusion, otherwise, your hearing aid may need to be sent away to be remade with a larger vent.
If your voice is not echoing but just sounds tinny, it is unlikely to be occlusion. If you haven’t been wearing your hearing aids a great deal or you live alone so don’t speak much when you have them in, the first step before visiting your audiologist is to see whether you can acclimatise to your voice by yourself.
Next time you read something, a newspaper or news article, book or magazine, read it out loud for the first five minutes. Repeat this every day, multiple times if possible, for a few days and see how you find your voice after this. If it’s still not right, then you can visit your audiologist to see if the hearing aid settings can be adjusted to relieve this slightly.
My hearing aids pick up too much background noise
This is an all-too-common scenario and often caused by a vicious circle. When you first get hearing aids you will definitely hear more noise than without them. If you take the time to persevere and acclimatise, your brain will learn to filter much of this noise out. If you, however, decide you will only wear them “when you go out” your brain never gets the chance to acclimatise and will be more sensitive to listening to noise rather than filtering it out.
The first step to hearing better in noise is consistently wearing your hearing aids, even at home, so your brain learns what is important to listen to (speech sounds) and what it can filter out (cars driving by, appliance noises, dogs barking). Even if you live alone and feel you don’t need to wear hearing aids as there is no one to listen to, your brain still needs stimulation of sound to function effectively in situations you do need the hearing aids. If you really do not like the sound of the hearing aids even in quiet, visit your audiologist to make sure they are optimised.
When you discussed different hearing aid options with your audiologist, there was a range of different devices and prices to choose from. Lower cost hearing aids have more basic sound processing, and higher cost hearing aids have more features to help reduce background noise automatically. Your hearing aid choice should be influenced by your lifestyle and your needs. Your audiologist can guide you in the right direction based on your hearing goals. If you are very socially active or work in noise but have low-cost hearing aids with minimal noise reduction, visit your audiologist to see what options are available for improving the sound quality.
Some hearing aid brands are able to be “upgraded” to higher-level technology with more automatic noise reduction. Normally, your audiologist would unlock this higher technology to let you try it for several weeks first. If you feel it is more satisfactory you can pay the difference between your initial purchase price and the new technology, otherwise, you simply revert back to your original level.
Another more common option is to have your audiologist add a dedicated noise reduction program to your hearing aids that you switch to when in a noisy place. Most hearing aids have a physical adjustment button, others have remote controls or smartphone apps. Some of the newer smartphone apps will allow you to directly modify the noise reduction settings yourself, as well as a change to a noise program or adjust the volume. Your audiologist can advise you what options your hearing aids have.
Most hearing aid brands also offer accessories such as “Remote Microphone” (or RM) systems. Each brand has its own technology but essentially an RM system is an external microphone either worn by one person or placed on a table and will pick up the closest voices, therefore reducing background noise and reverberation effects of places with poor acoustics. Speak with your audiologist about options compatible with your hearing aids.
My hearing aids are uncomfortable to wear
Initially, there is an adjustment phase of getting used to having something in your ear, but if this does not settle and you find the hearing aids uncomfortable, there are many things your audiologist can do to improve hearing aid comfort. Behind-the-ear and receiver-in-canal hearing aids are the easiest to modify and can usually be done by your local audiologist in-clinic. If you have an earmold this can be reduced in size or bumps shaved off so it fits better. In extreme cases, a new mold can be made.
If you have silicone “domes” then there are many different sizes available to suit different ears and these can simply be removed and replaced. Your audiologist can also check the length of the wire or tubing connecting from your ear to the hearing aid and change this if necessary so the hearing aid sits better. For in-the-ear hearing aids, you will usually need your audiologist to take another impression of your ear and send your hearing aid away to have the outside shell remade. You will be without the hearing aid for several weeks, but the end result of having a comfortable hearing aid that fits well will be worth it.
Ears can change shape! Normally, this happens over several years, so if you have had your hearing aids for a while and have noticed they don’t sit as well as they used to, contact your audiologist to discuss your options.
My hearing aids whistle
This whistling sound is called feedback and it happens when amplified sound from the hearing aid is picked up by the microphone and re-amplified. Although hearing aids are much better than they used to be at reducing feedback, many wearers still report this problem. Usually, a visit to your audiologist can help sort this out. They can do a test for feedback with the hearing aid in your ear. If the whistling only happens when you wear a certain hat, for example, make sure you take the hat with you to demonstrate this.
If it happens in other situations in your home or car, make notes of what is positioned near you so you can explain this to your audiologist. Sometimes fixing feedback is as simple as adjusting the hearing aid settings. Other options may be changing the fitting of the hearing aid in your ear to prevent the sound from leaking out or adding a separate program for when you use the phone.
Wrapping it up
In general, it is important to remember that hearing aids are aids and not a replacement for normal hearing. The more you wear your hearing aids and persevere through the differences you notice initially, the more comfortable you will be with them and the more natural they will sound. Most common problems reported by hearing aid wearers can easily be rectified in-clinic by your trusted audiologist, either through adjusting the hearing aid settings or physically modifying the devices to fix comfort and feedback issues.
Your local Attune audiologists are always here to help. They have seen these issues many times before, and it is much better to address these problems early than to ignore them, which will ultimately result in your hearing aids ending up “in the drawer” rather than in your ears. If you have any questions or concerns about the fit of your hearing aids, your audiologist will be happy to help. To do the best you can for your hearing give us a call at 1300 736 702 or book your appointment online!