How to Maximize the Benefits of Hearing Aids
Last updated December 2020
Purchasing a hearing aid is one aspect of an overall treatment plan. Hearing and listening training and counseling can also help those with hearing loss. Techniques that can be learned: reading speech and other visual cues; understanding how to position yourself in noisy situations; and adjusting to different hearing environments.
A hearing specialist might provide these services, but other sources can also help. Community colleges and universities often offer classes in hearing training and aural rehabilitation. Gallaudet University is a fantastic resource.
And consider joining a support group for hearing-aid wearers. Besides offering moral support, groups share ideas about what works and what doesn’t when wearing an aid. The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) (301-657-2248) can link you to groups in your area.
There’s only so much hearing aids can do and how much each patient will benefit from wearing them, especially while in difficult listening environments. You’ll have to adapt, too, by analyzing the situation and taking steps to create a more listening-friendly environment.
Reduce background noise. Turn loud music and TVs down if they are competing with people for your attention. At restaurants, request a quiet table. At a friend’s house, suggest that the conversation be moved into another room if kids are playing games nearby. At the office, move away from the air-conditioning unit when you need to have a conversation.
Find a good spot. Position yourself close to whoever is speaking. In groups, seat yourself in the center where you can see and hear everyone. In large group listening situations, show up early so you can choose a good position. In restaurants, try to get seated away from the center of the dining room, and in a booth, if possible (sitting with a wall behind you will reduce background noise).
Turn on the lights. In darker rooms, ask anyone talking to you to sit or stand in the best light.
Plan ahead. If you know you will be in a particularly difficult listening environment, take steps beforehand to make sure you won’t be wasting your time by showing up. Call ahead and talk to someone who knows the environment. Are there quiet tables? Is front-row seating available? Will a light be shining on the speaker? In large group-listening settings like churches and concert halls, call ahead and ask about assistive listening devices, which transmit sound to a special wearable receiver that reduces the loss of clarity that occurs when sound travels.
Speak up. Politely but firmly assert your needs. Call out from the audience for the speaker to speak into the microphone. If the audience is asking unamplified questions, ask the speaker to repeat them before answering. In restaurants where the music is too loud, ask your waitperson to turn the volume down. If necessary, ask people to face you head-on when they speak to you. They will appreciate your candor, and your hearing will benefit tremendously.