What to Do When You Think You Have a Hearing Loss
Hearing loss sneaks up on people gradually, so it is sometimes difficult to detect oneself. Often, friends and family are the first to notice. The average person waits 7-10 years before treating their hearing loss. Part of this is due to stigma, but part is not knowing the steps to take to find out more about hearing loss and to construct a plan for treatment. Here are my tips for taking the first few steps along your hearing loss journey. Please share your ideas in the comments.
Take a Hearing Test
For an initial assessment, you should see an audiologist, or your primary care physician if you need a referral. At your first visit to an audiologist, the hearing loss specialist will examine you physically and perform a series of hearing tests to determine the type and degree of your loss. Online hearing tests are also now available, including The National Hearing Test, which was created through a grant from the National Institutes of Health and is provided on a non-profit basis. There is a small fee to take the test. If hearing loss is confirmed, you move onto the treatment phase of your care.
Find the Right Audiologist For You
If you have a hearing loss, the right audiologist can be a true partner in your care. Find an audiologist that has experience with your type of hearing loss, offers a variety of hearing aid brands and other assistive technologies and takes a person-centered approach. When possible, get a recommendation from a friend or a trusted doctor, or read reviews online to find someone with the skills and manner you desire. If the first audiologist you see does not feel right for you, try someone else. A good personal fit is important.
Try a Hearing Aid (or Two)
All reputable hearing aid dispensers allow you to try a hearing aid for 30 days or more before completing your purchase. If this is not the case at your facility, find another practice. This is important because the first hearing aid you try might not be the right one for you. Fitting a hearing aid takes time and work, from both the audiologist and the hearing aid wearer. Don’t be surprised if you feel that you are hearing worse with the hearing aids during the early days of the trial than you do without them. This is normal and makes sense since it takes time for your brain to acclimate to and organize the new sounds.
After a week or two, go back to the audiologist who can fine-tune some of the settings. Keep a written record of what is and is not working to help guide the adjustments. This process is typically iterative, and (depending on the complexity of your hearing loss) may require multiple visits to the audiologist until the settings are just right.
If things do not improve during the course of the trial, your audiologist may recommend trying a different type of hearing aid instead. Think of it like finding love — you may need to kiss a couple of frogs before you find your hearing aid prince.
Have Realistic Expectations
Everyone wants hearing aids to work like glasses — you put them on and your hearing is magically restored to normal. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Having reasonable expectations will help you stay positive as you work through the kinks. You can read more about that here.
Connect With Hearing Loss Peers
Find a local chapter of a hearing loss organization like Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) to meet other people with hearing loss. Talking with other people with hearing loss can be incredibly helpful. Finally, there is someone who understands what you are experiencing and can share helpful communication and self-advocacy tips with you.
Be Open About Your Hearing Loss
This one may take time. It took me 10 years to come out of my hearing loss closet, but the sooner you come clean, the easier life will become. Being open will help you accept your hearing loss. It will allow you to ask for the help you need to improve communication with the people that you love. Without all the pressure to hear everything perfectly, you may begin to enjoy social gatherings again and even learn to laugh when a misunderstanding occurs. Every time you tell someone about your hearing issues, it gets easier. Keep doing it until it is second nature.