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What to do if you don’t like your new hearing aids

Contributed by Amanda Richardson, BC-HIS, MBA, BA-CD

3/22/2024 12:00:00 AM • 10 min read

Congratulations on taking care of your hearing health! Transitioning back to the world of sound can be difficult and overwhelming. It’s also very rewarding. What’s normal to hear? What should it sound like? Should I hear myself breathe? These are common questions I receive when helping patients return to the world of sound. It’s also hard for family and friends to know how to support patients with their new hearing aids. So, let’s talk about what it is like to get new devices, how to support new hearing aid users and when to get help for things versus getting used to them.

What it’s like to get new hearing aids

I use a lot of analogies with vision when explaining hearing aids. When we first put on glasses, it is common to go out into the world and see things like blades of grass and leaves on the trees. You might think “whoa, no one is supposed to see THAT good.” A short while later, those leaves seem not to matter anymore, and you go about your life.

Hearing can be a lot like this. You may become aware of small nuances of sound that are very exciting at first but fade out of your awareness when more exciting things, like hearing loved ones speak, take its place. The brain cannot process everything it hears, so it selects those things that are important, but it takes some time for the brain to figure those things out. Wearing your hearing aids as much as possible will help the brain, and you, acclimate.

It's always ok to ask your provider if the things you are hearing are normal or not! For a lot of people, hearing aids may seem loud at first. The aim is for things to be different, but still comfortable. For some people, a slower transition into the volume they need is more appropriate than all the improvement at once.

Even for the experienced hearing instrument user, it can be a challenging transition with a new prescription or device. Communication is key. Let your provider know what you are experiencing, and they will either adjust the devices or let you know you’ll adapt. If you are wearing the devices all day and things don’t start to get better in a few days, you should call your provider and check in. Be patient with yourself and others during the transition.

What adjustments can be made to my hearing aids?

There are many things that can be adjusted with new hearing devices. Sometimes people are afraid to ask their hearing care professional for help because they don’t think we can help or don’t want to bother them – please do reach out! Most things are easy for us to fix if we know about them. If it doesn’t seem like your provider understands you, tell them again.

Programming adjustments

As you wear devices, you will find yourself in lots of different situations and environments. It might take some time to get used to things in each new environment. Try to keep your hearing aids in, even if they are turned down, this will help your brain adjust more quickly. Try to avoid loud situations for the first week or so with new devices. If you have a specific environment that continues to be challenging, talk to your hearing care provider about it.

After a week or two of wearing your new devices, you can start to try out noisier situations. Try going to a restaurant or a get-together with a small group. It can take time to learn how to focus on different voices when there are multiple options. Pick friends who are supportive to work with and practice.

Fit adjustments

If your hearing aids are physically uncomfortable, chances are they are not inserted properly. If you have a smart phone, you can ask to take a video of your provider inserting the hearing aid so you can watch it later for reference. That will also give you an image to compare so you know what things look like when the hearing aid is correctly inserted. Or you can call the provider and set an earlier appointment to get in for more instructions if needed.

If your hearing aids are inserted properly and still uncomfortable, the fit can be modified. Usually, the provider will look at your ears for red marks or signs of discomfort and ask you to show where it hurts. This provides valuable feedback for the provider to find the best fit for you. Depending on whether you have a behind-the-ear or in-the-canal style hearing aid, the provider may be able to change dome size, wire length or make other adjustments.

Common hearing aid issues and their fixes

  1. Check the battery. If your hearing aids use traditional (non-rechargeable) batteries, check to make sure the pack of batteries you are using hasn’t expired. You might have just purchased them, but most stores don’t check the expiration date on their batteries regularly and don’t sell them fast enough to have a fresh supply.

    If you have rechargeable batteries, those can go bad, too. Does the light flash when you put it on the charger? Is the charger plugged into a socket that is not connected to a light switch? Does the charger light up to let you know it’s working? If none of these things are the problem, it’s time to call your provider for a service appointment.

  2. It is plugged with wax. Wax happens, and it happens all the time. The hearing aids can get plugged with wax and so can your ears. A good cleaning does wonders. If you don’t know how to clean your hearing aids, visit your provider and have them cleaned or ask them to show you how. Regular cleaning solves a lot of hearing aid problems.
  3. Moisture. If you get your hearing aid wet, that can make it stop working. People jump in the shower or in a pool accidentally all the time. If you sweat a lot, over time, this can eventually wear down the devices. Some hearing aids are more durable than others. Find out more about what to do if you get your hearing aids wet and if new hearing aids are waterproof.
  4. It’s actually broken. Hearing aids do break. They are electronic and the older they get, the more likely they may break. Take your hearing aid to your provider for service.
  5. Inserted Properly. If you have a new hearing aid or are getting used to them, you might not have the hearing aid in properly. If it’s not in deep enough or seated correctly, you may not be hearing as well as you are used to. Check in with your provider and snap some pictures or videos of how to insert them so you can get it right.
  6. Your hearing has changed. If none of the above fix the problem, it is possible your hearing has gotten worse. If it has been more than a year since your last hearing assessment, it’s time for a new one.

One other problem that occurs more with older model hearing aids is feedback or whistling. There are a few reasons feedback happens – including wax, the volume of the devices being too high, or they are not inserted in the ear correctly. If this is a new occurrence and you’ve been wearing aids for a while, there could be something wrong with the hearing aids, like a short or loose wire. Check in with your provider so they can help you identify the cause of the feedback.

How to support someone who just got new hearing aids

How do you support your loved one with new hearing devices? I’m sure you are super excited to have them hear again (who isn’t?). You may be used to speaking loudly because they have struggled to hear you. This can be quite jarring for them now that they’re wearing hearing aids - and if they miss a word, it might not be because they didn’t hear you, but because you are too loud. It’s a huge change! Ask them what they think they heard that way when they repeat it correctly, it helps build their confidence in their new hearing. Sometimes they are so used to saying “what,” it is automatic.

It is helpful to talk slowly so they have time to relearn your voice. I like to touch the person first before speaking or just say their name first to get their attention. This will help them focus on you and feel supported.

Let them set the TV volume, it might even be too low for you at first, but as they get used to hearing, you should be able to agree on a TV volume. Using closed captioning while wearing hearing devices helps the patient learn what words sound like again.

Loved one’s support is crucial to hearing aid success. This is a big shift for them and having your support will encourage them to keep trying if they are feeling frustrated. It’s also ok for you to call the provider and ask if something is normal. Go with your loved one to their appointments so the provider knows they can talk to you.

Your hearing care provider is a resource and is happy to help you along the road to getting used to hearing again. Be patient with yourself and if you aren’t sure about something, ask your provider. Even if you have worn devices before, technological improvements can be challenging at first, but with a little time and effort you’ll be hearing beautifully again.

If you are ready to start hearing better, schedule a complimentary hearing assessment today at your local HearingLife.

amanda richardson hearing instrument specialist
Amanda Richardson, BC-HIS, MBA, BA-CD

Amanda Richardson grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. She has been practicing for over 24 years and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Wisconsin, continuing on to receive her master’s degree from the same institution. Amanda is licensed in both the states of Washington and Oregon.Her devotion to helping the hearing impaired came from her love of family. A good portion of her family is hearing impaired, and she has firsthand experience of how hearing loss can affect daily life. Suffering from tinnitus herself, Amanda possesses an attitude of compassion, never giving up and truly striving to help in any way she can. She has received countless awards for her dedication to the hard of hearing, and fights tirelessly for the benefit of those she serves.

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