How often do you wear your hearing aids?
“I wear them when I need to,” is a response that Audiologists hear too often when asking a person how much they have been wearing their hearing aids. Although a person may get hearing aids to help with a specific problem, such as hearing the TV at a volume that is comfortable for their spouse, deciding to wear their hearing aids only when watching TV will significantly limit their hearing rehabilitation. This can possibly lead to long-term issues such as:
- A decreased ability to understand speech
- An increased sensitivity to sounds that do not bother the average person
Finding a routine
While most experienced hearing aid users wear their hearing aids as much as possible, new users can struggle to make hearing aids part of their daily routine, often because they are constantly making a decision about “should I wear them right now or not?” When it becomes habit, you eliminate the constant "use them or leave them out?" decision making. Make putting hearing aids on part of your ‘getting dressed’ routine in the morning and taking them out part of your routine of going to bed.
Stimulating your brain
To help your brain habituate to hearing everyday sounds, you need to wear your hearing aids consistently. You should wear them whenever you are not sleeping, showering, swimming, or exposed to loud noises, with few exceptions. For the average person, that means a usage time of at least 10 hours a day. If you only wear your hearing aids when doing certain activities, or for a few hours a day, your brain will not be properly rehabilitated and will never get a chance to get used to hearing everyday sounds.
Remember, hearing aids are used to treat hearing loss by rehabilitating the auditory cortex. Damage at the level of the ear will reduce the input to that part of the brain which can result in atrophy (if you don’t use it, you lose it). Using hearing aids can keep the neural tissue in the auditory cortex stimulated thereby improving or maintaining overall auditory processing. Why does this matter? Auditory processing is how well your brain fills in the blanks.
Filling in the blanks
“I think i_ mig__t sn__w tod_y.”
Can you read this sentence? Even though you don’t “see” all of the letters, your visual cortex is filling in the blanks. Your auditory cortex does the same thing. It fills in the blanks when your ear doesn’t deliver all the sounds to your brain (because of background noise or distance, for example). People can often hear well in quiet because their brain is filling in the blanks. But in noise, more sound becomes obscured, and the brain has more difficulty piecing it together. Using your hearing aids consistently (even when the environment is seemingly quiet) can optimize the neural tissue in your auditory cortex thereby giving you the best chance at processing when the environment is challenging.
Audiologists often hear people say, “I don’t need them when I am home alone.” It’s true that you might not “care” if you hear certain environmental sounds (like your book pages turning, or your fork on a plate) but it doesn’t mean they are not important. These sounds are creating sound pressure waves that travel up the auditory nerve and stimulate the auditory cortex, creating new neural tissue. This is the purpose of amplification. It is rehabilitation.
If you are struggling to wear your hearing aids regularly, and are motivated to make a change, book an appointment with one of our Audiologists. With extensive training in the diagnosis, treatment, and counselling of hearing loss, our Audiologists can help you find out why you are not wearing your hearing aids and come up with an individualized plan to make them a normal part of your routine.
Broadmead Hearing Clinic: 250-470-2926 or Oak Bay Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2921.