We try to be very accessible to our patients, explaining even the most complicated subjects in language that everyone can understand. Hearing is an incredibly complicated process; the ear is much more complicated than the eye. But understanding the science of what happens when you hear, and what your hearing loss means, doesn’t have to be hard. It’s our job to answer all your questions and make sure you are comfortable about your own hearing treatment.
We’ve gathered some of the most common questions we hear from our patients, both about the science of hearing and what you can expect from your hearing aids.
What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss means that you are no longer able to hear sounds as clearly as you used to, and you may not be able to hear some sounds at all without help. There are three main kinds of hearing loss:
- Conductive hearing loss means something is preventing your outer or middle ear or ear canal from relaying sound properly. It might be caused by earwax, or by fluid buildup due to an ear infection or other illness.
- Sensorineural hearing loss is most commonly caused by a lifetime of wear-and-tear (“age-related hearing loss”) and exposure to loud sounds. Sometimes this type of hearing loss is caused by certain medications and infections.
- Mixed hearing loss is a combination of the two. Usually we start by treating the conductive hearing loss medically and then treating the sensorineural hearing loss with a hearing aid.
Why is hearing protection so important?
The best way to treat hearing loss is to prevent it from happening at all! Exposure to loud sounds can permanently damage your hearing, especially over time. And there’s no reason to take that risk. We can help you with custom hearing protection, such as custom earplugs, that are comfortable and highly effective. Even musicians and people who love listening to live music can choose custom-fit earplugs that don’t muffle the sound, they just reduce what you’re hearing to a safe volume.
What are the signs of hearing loss?
Generally, if you’ve started wondering if you might have hearing loss, it’s time to get it tested for your own peace of mind. And if you’ve noticed any of these signs, you might have hearing loss:
- It seems like people are mumbling or not speaking as clearly as they used to.
- You’re turning the TV up louder than other people.
- You have to ask other people to repeat themselves often, or you’ve stopped even asking for them to repeat themselves and instead you smile and nod and hope for the best.
- Your friends or family members say you seem like you’re not hearing well.
- You think you hear what is being said, only to find that you’ve misheard several important words.
Is my hearing bad enough to need hearing aids, or should I wait?
It’s better to treat hearing loss sooner rather than later. Waiting means that your ears and your brain go a longer time without being able to hear certain sounds. The brain stops putting resources into understanding things it can’t hear. Eventually you might lose your ability to understand those sounds even if a hearing aid lets you hear them again.
Will hearing aids make me hear like I used to?
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for hearing loss. Hearing aids won’t reset your hearing to exactly how it used to be. But it’s amazing how much they can improve your life if you start wearing them with an open mind.
Why don’t my new hearing aids fix my hearing immediately?
If you’ve just gotten hearing aids for the first time, there is going to be a transition period. Getting hearing aids is a process, not an event. It’s important to realize that this is an adventure and it might push you out of your comfort zone. On average, people wait 8-10 years after initial onset of hearing loss to get hearing aids. The parts of your brain that hear sound went dormant over that time, and it’s going to take at least a few weeks for those neurons to wake back up. Be patient, and wear your hearing aids as often as you can, for as long as you can. If things really don’t seem like they’re getting better, it may be necessary to do more to help you hear better. This is why hearing healthcare is a team effort!
What if my own voice sounds strange to me with hearing aids?
We may be able to make some adjustments, such as modifying the acoustics of your hearing aid. However, the best thing to do is to give your brain a chance to get used to your own voice. Keep talking. Have a conversation with someone you trust, such as a spouse or a sibling, so they can let you know if the volume is appropriate and if your voice sounds normal to them. Eventually your brain will adapt and you won’t even notice how your voice sounds anymore.
How long do hearing aids last?
With proper care and maintenance, hearing aids can last for years. However, because technology is always improving, our patients usually choose to replace theirs every 3-5 years so they can benefit from new advancements.
How do I take care of my hearing aids?
- Clean your hearing aids daily.
- Change the wax guards regularly.
- Replace the batteries when your hearing aids signal that it’s time.
- Never wear your hearing aids while swimming or showering.
- Store them in a dry place (not in the bathroom), or keep them in a drying device when you’re not wearing them.
- Come see us every six months to clean and adjust your hearing aids.