Austin Chapman was born deaf. For years, Austin’s limited hearing was enabled by low-quality hearing aids. However, when he traded his existing hearing aid for a higher-quality device, the world around him grew instantly more colorful — almost overwhelmingly so. He describes his first vivid hearing experience like this:
“The first thing I heard was my shoe scraping across the carpet; it startled me. I have never heard that before and out of ignorance, I assumed it was too quiet for anyone to hear. I sat in the doctor’s office frozen as a cacophony of sounds attacked me. The whir of the computer, the hum of the AC, the clacking o the keyboard, and when my best friend walked in, I couldn’t believe that he had a slight rasp to his voice. He joked that it was time to cut back on the cigarettes.”
Most of us can relate to Austin’s story in some capacity. Maybe, like Austin, you’re the protagonist and are having to re-learn formally familiar sounds. Or, if you’re like his best friend, maybe you find yourself playing a more supportive role as the caretaker. Regardless, it’s important to note and understand the delicacy of this transitional period.
When you start wearing hearing aids, your brain has to work hard to re-learn sounds you haven’t heard in months or maybe even years. This process of re-learning is different for everyone but usually takes time and skillful practice to become a successful hearing aid listener. To accelerate and ease your transition, here are five principles to adopt as your hearing adjusts.
- Stay Positive. Social psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has conducted extensive primary research to study positive thinking and its impact on your skills. Her experimental results led to the birth of the broaden and build theory — that positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities, which allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life. So according to Fredrickson, keeping a positive attitude will allow you to adjust to the audible changes more quickly.
- Be Informed. It’s said that one of the most effective remedies for hearing loss is personal education. The more you understand about your hearing loss, gain and treatment, the better chance you have in accelerating the re-learning process. It’s also important to know the capabilities of your hearing aid device, to fully understand all that your hearing aid enables you to do.
- Set Realistic Expectations. Hearing aids will help you hear better, but not perfectly. Setting attainable goals for yourself will allow you to remain positive and keep your focus on your improvement. Remember that the re-learning process differs from person-to-person and could take anywhere from six weeks to six months.
- Seek Support. Just like physical therapy is prescribed for knee injury patients to help them recover from surgery and return to normal, day-to-day activities, auditory therapy works in the same way. Oftentimes this service comes as a free benefit to patients with the purchase of their hearing aids. Contact your local doctor to see if you qualify.
- Be Persistent and Patient in Practice. Set a concrete schedule for yourself when you’re going to wear your hearing device. Some doctors recommend wearing them part-time to begin then gradually building-up to wearing them full-time. The longevity of your adjustment process will be determined by your commitment to improving.
As you begin your process of re-learning, let us encourage you — don’t let yourself get discouraged. Your natural tendency may be to get frustrated or anxious during times of practice, but give yourself some grace and be patient. Learning to hear with hearing aids may seem intimidating up front, but we promise the re-learning process will get easier and more natural with time. Trust us, it’ll all be worth it in the end.