Fully loaded: important hearing aid features
What types of features can’t fit in the smallest hearing aids?
One is a telecoil, or t-coil, which gives you advantages in two situations: on the telephone, as most phones are telecoil compatible; and in “looped” environments. Some places like theaters, classrooms, ticket booths in the subway, and even taxicabs are “looped.” When you find you’re in a looped space (there are usually signs) and you switch to telecoil mode, you’ll just get the sound coming from the loop’s microphone.
Five or six years ago, Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids were introduced. If you wear one in each ear, they “communicate” with each other to improve your listening experience. For example, if there’s background noise on your left side, that aid may turn down its volume a bit, and signal this information to the right. The right aid then may zero in on a person talking to you. This connectivity improves your directional hearing, too.
Bluetooth hearing aids can give users the option for connectivity with their cell phones, music players, television, and more via an additional device that looks like a small remote control. The device “streams” the sound from the phone, TV, etc. right into both ears.
What to expect as a first-time hearing aid user
What are some surprises for first-time wearers?
I want clients to be prepared for the adjustment period. It isn’t like putting on a new pair of glasses and instantly seeing clearly. The first few days or weeks can be a little tough as your brain literally learns to process new digital sounds. You should visit the audiologist a few times to get the settings just right. Sometimes, a particular brand of hearing aid just isn’t best for one person, while it works perfectly for someone else with a similar hearing loss. Remember that you have time to decide on a new aid. (New York State law requires a 45-day trial period; other states have a 30-day trial; the law does stipulate dispensers’ right to a cancellation fee.)
Your audiologist may offer classes to help you get the most out of your hearing aids. Classes can also provide a mutually supportive environment for people who have hearing loss.
For me, the worst possible scenario is when someone purchases hearing aids that wind up sitting in a drawer. That can happen if the wearer isn’t prepared for the initial process and adjustment period, if the audiologist doesn’t have the right experience for a particular hearing loss, or if the audiologist and client aren’t communicating effectively.
For those who stick with it and work closely with an experienced audiologist, the quality-of-life payoff is huge.
About the Author: Ellen Lafargue, Au.D., CCC-A, is the Director of the Shelley and Steven Einhorn Audiology Center at the Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC) in Lower Manhattan. CHC is a 103-year-old nonprofit institution with a mission to keep people with hearing loss connected. A multidisciplinary hearing health practice, CHC offers audiological, communication therapy (speech and language) and emotional health and wellness services. Dr. Lafargue is a 30-year veteran at CHC and recognized as a top NYC audiologist.
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