Getting used to new hearing devices is challenging, even for experienced users. One of the biggest factors which influence your ability to succeed with new devices is your attitude and expectations towards them - start with realistic expectations about how your devices can help you in different situations and have a proactive attitude towards wearing them. This post will provide you with some tips and tricks that my previous clients have said worked for them.
It takes some time to adjust to wearing hearing devices and listening to new sounds. How long this adjustment takes varies from person to person. With practice and patience, you’ll be hearing clearly sounds which you may not have heard at that level for years.
Over the first few days, start off wearing it as much as you can in environments you are comfortable with (eg at home, quiet places). Once you are more confident, start wearing them for longer periods in a wider variety of situations (eg shopping centers, social gatherings, cafes). If wearing your hearing devices makes you tired, remove them and have a rest. You’ll soon be able to wear them for longer periods and ultimately all day comfortably.
Listen to the various noises in your environment and try to identify them, remembering that some sounds will seem different then you’re used to. After the first few weeks, common voices and sounds will be familiar again as your brain adapts to the new sounds and your understanding improves.
Tips when talking to people
Being aware of your environment
Undoubtedly, getting used to anything new takes time and energy but with a little perseverance and practise, you'll be able to continue enjoying the sounds of your life for many years to come. If you feel you are not hearing adequately through your devices or are still struggling to acclimatize even after several weeks of adjustments, feel free to contact our clinicians for assistance or advice.
Phones are ever-present these days, playing an important part of our lives by allowing us to stay connected with family and friends, and even allowing for the continued independence of some individuals. Hearing losses can impact our ability to maintain conversations over the phone but there are increasing numbers of hearing devices which are compatible with today's phones with an aim of reducing background noise and improving signal clarity.
If you already have a hearing device, there are some things you can do to get the best performance out of your devices.
1. Positioning of the handset: by placing the phone directly up to the hearing device's microphone, you allow the signal to be processed through the hearing aid, improving the sound signal. If you experience "whistling" (feedback) when on the phone, angling the handset upwards and moving it slightly away from the device may reduce this.
2. Activating additional features: most phones today come with vibration alerts and sometimes even flashing lights to inform you of a call/notification if you don't hear your phone ring. Sometimes these can be customized and adjusted depending on the mobile phone brand. Many hearing devices also have inbuilt telecoils which allow devices to directly connect with the phones and hear the conversations better (sometimes an additional induction neck-loop is required for this feature to be activated).
3. Smartphone compatible devices: new advances in technology mean some hearing devices are designed to wirelessly connect to smart phones via Bluetooth, allowing for direct streaming of music and phone calls. Some hearing device manufacturers also produce apps which can allow for the smartphone to act as a remote control for your hearing aids. When considering to invest in a new smartphone, consider what their Hearing Aid Compatibility rating (HAC) is. NB - The higher the numerical number (min -max:1- 4), the better (Eg: A device with a M3T3 HAC rating is quite good)
“M” – the microphone mode (how well the internal microphone can pick up sounds and amplify them)
“T” – the telecoil mode (whether telecoil technology is available)
Still struggling to hear? It may be time to review your hearing and/or your hearing devices. Feel free to contact our clinicians for a hearing assessment today.
What is feedback?
All hearing devices will produce a slight whistling noise from time to time, regardless of what type or style of device you have. Known as feedback, this sound is often reported to be one of the most annoying aspects of a hearing device. Occasional feedback is a normal occurrence with devices and it is only when you are experiencing significant feedback frequently, that there may be something else wrong.
Types of feedback?
Acoustic feedback: produced when sounds from the aid escape the ear canal and are fed back into the device’s microphone. This is the most common type of feedback.
Mechanical feedback: vibrations from the speaker can be transmitted through the unit to the microphone which results in a feedback loop.
Electronic feedback: often caused by an electrical problem, this type of feedback requires servicing by your audiologist.
There are many situations where hearing aids may feedback, including:
What can I do to reduce feedback?
Any electronic or mechanical feedback will most likely need attention by your audiologist however there are some techniques that may fix acoustic feedback which you can try at home.
Ill-fitting or incorrectly fit devices are the main culprit for feedback. Ensure the earpiece is sitting securely and deeply within the ear canal. The mould/dome should be tight but not causing significant pain. If you have lost a lot of weight recently, you may require a new mould to be made. Sometimes a small amount of water-based lubricant (not Vaseline) can be put on the mould to create a better seal and reduce feedback however this can easily clog the tubing or block the filter – so if you are attempting this, use the lubricant very sparingly.
Sometimes when inserting the speaker earpiece (RIC devices), the receiver can accidently be angled incorrectly, pointing at the wall of the ear canal rather than down towards the eardrum. As a result, sound can bounce off the ear canal and out of the ear, creating that recognizable whistling. Our ear canals are “S” shaped meaning that straightening the ear canal slightly by pulling your pinna (outer ear) backwards may cause the feedback to stop and correct the positioning of the speaker.
Even a small amount of earwax can result in a significant amount of feedback. As sound travels down the ear canal, it can hit the wax and be sent back out of the canal to get amplified. Check with your healthcare practitioner about removing any wax and/or whether a wax softener is required first. DO NOT put any cotton tips/buds into your ears as this may cause more damage than good to your ears.
If you have access to a volume control on your hearing device, you may want to try reducing the volume to see if this reduces feedback. Sometimes too much amplification at certain frequencies can produce whistling so by reducing the volume slightly, this can eliminate the feedback temporarily until you have a chance to visit your clinician to make further adjustments to the settings.
Over time, tubing can harden and can crack, resulting in a hole for sound to escape through and travel back into the microphone for behind-the-ear devices. Even some in-the-ear aids, if there is a crack in the shell and the microphone is dislodged, this can also result in feedback. Let your audiologist look at your device to determine what can be fixed.
Feedback suppression systems
Feedback is often corrected by reducing the higher frequencies; although this is the easiest way to reduce feedback, it comes at the expense of speech clarity. Most newer hearing devices come with built-in feedback management systems which detect feedback and suppress it before it is produced. Some systems, however, may be so good at solving feedback, that it can impact on your speech understanding. Speak with your clinician about finding a good balance between sound clarity and feedback as it may require some programming adjustments.
Where to now?
Feeling as if your devices are feed backing still or considering upgrading to a newer device with a better suppression system? Feel free to contact the clinic to book an appointment with one of our friendly clinicians today.
NB – these are all temporary fixes for tinnitus. It is best to consult your Audiologist for further advice and recommendations if you are experiencing significant tinnitus.
Communication requires effort from all parties involved to help maintain a successful ‘two-way street’ and difficulties can arise when information is lost during the conversation due to a hearing impairment. Individuals with hearing difficulties usually have to rely on their remaining hearing, assistive listening devices (eg hearing aids), visual cues/lip reading, as well as communication tactics and strategies to maintain conversations.
Below are some examples of tactics which can help make communication easier:
Hearing loss is a natural occurrence and effects everyone differently. Some people don’t even realize they have an issue and it’s those closest around them that are impacted most. If you feel a loved one is not hearing as well as they used to, bring them in to have their hearing assessed. Appointments can be made with one of our friendly clinicians.
In many of today’s hearing devices, button-style batteries are used to ensure optimum performance. Hearing aid batteries use zinc air technology which allows for a high energy output and larger capacity than conventional alkaline button batteries given their size.
There are typically several factors which influence how long your hearing aid batteries last for:
When first removed from the packet, hearing aid batteries come with an activation sticker/tab which covers air holes at the top of the battery. Once this sticker is removed, the battery will be activated so remember to only remove it just before you need to insert it into your hearing device.
Storing new and used batteries in a secure place is extremely important. Because of their size, hearing aid batteries should always be kept out of reach of children and pets as they can be a choking hazard or cause burns internally. Also remember to store batteries separate from oral medications to reduce the risk of accidental ingestion. When you change your batteries, immediately place the used batteries in a child-proof container and bring them to a local recycling center (do not throw them in the bin or leave them lying around). For places near you to recycle all batteries, visit recyclingnearyou.com.au/batteries.
Should a person or pet accidentally swallow any type of battery, seek immediate medical assistance by taking them to the nearest Emergency Medical Department (or vet). If possible, bring the battery packaging along with you. For more information, you can call the Poisons Information Center on 13 11 26.
Running low on hearing aid batteries? The Sydney Hearing Services clinics has access to all hearing aid battery sizes available in store for purchase or available through the post (additional postage cost may apply).
If you’re sick and tired of having to change batteries at all, contact the clinic to hear about our new range of rechargeable hearing aids with up to 5 years of battery life.