Getting to Know Your Hearing Aids

Olga Lis, MS, CCC-A

If you have just purchased your first pair of hearing aids, then congratulations! Even though it is exciting to start hearing better, you must take some time to learn about your new devices. The more familiar you are with them and how they work, the longer you will be able to use them and the happier you will be with them. Your audiologist can help you get started with your new devices, but there are a few things you should do before you leave the office.

How do hearing aids work?

Hearing aids are small electronic devices worn on the ear or ear canal. They are made up of three parts: a microphone that takes up ambient noise, a processor that amplifies the sound to precise levels for your specific hearing loss, and a speaker that sends the sound into your ear.

Will my hearing aids work like glasses?

Hearing aids are more sophisticated than eyeglasses. While glasses correct your vision, hearing aids improve how you hear. 

Your hearing aid will likely be programmed to amplify sounds at different levels depending on their frequency range. For example, people with hearing loss often have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds — such as the consonants in speech — so your hearing aid may be programmed to amplify these frequencies more than others.

Don’t hold your breath for perfection. Hearing aids are not a “cure-all” but rather a tool for improving your hearing. They aren’t a perfect substitute for ears that work in all situations. Even though today’s hearing aids are streets ahead of what they used to be, you may still have difficulty hearing in some conditions, such as a noisy restaurant or a party. 

Keep in mind that even those with excellent hearing sometimes struggle to hear every word of a discussion in certain situations.

How should I look after my hearing aids?

Keep your hearing aids dry – water can damage the internal parts. If you get water in your ears, a good tip is to use a hairdryer in the lowest setting to dry out the ear canal and the hearing aid itself or use a hearing aids dehumidifier.

Keep your hearing aids clean – it’s essential to clean any wax build-up from your hearing aids regularly. You should also check that the microphone openings aren’t blocked by debris. A blast of air from a small air duster can be helpful for this.

Store your hearing aids safely – try to avoid dropping or banging your hearing aids as this can cause lasting damage and, in some cases, lead to irreparable issues. It’s also essential to store them somewhere safe when not in use so they don’t get lost or broken by accident.

Why doesn’t music sound right with hearing aids?

Music sounds strange through hearing aids because it can be quite different from regular conversation. Music is played at a higher volume than speech, and it can be heard from a distance. The background noise is usually low in conversation, and the sound source is close.

Hearing aids are programmed to amplify speech and block out background noise so that every word can be clearly understood. This is great for everyday listening but not so good for enjoying music as it makes some of the sounds too loud and others too soft.

The easiest way to make your hearing aid suitable for listening to music is by using a hearing aid that has a phone setting or program specifically designed for listening to music.

Will hearing aids help with tinnitus?

Hearing aids may be the answer for those who also have tinnitus. This works because hearing aids make sounds louder so that the ear isn’t working as hard to pick up sounds. This reduces the brain’s activity and may lessen the perception of tinnitus in some people.

However, even if you do not have hearing loss, a hearing professional can help you manage your tinnitus symptoms with a sound generator device (also known as a masker).

How long will my hearing aids last?

The simple answer is approximately five years – if you look after them.

The more accurate answer is that the lifespan of your hearing aids will vary depending on the hearing aid you have and how you take care of them. Some models will last longer than others, and some people may not get as long out of their hearing aids as others do.