Congratulations on helping your loved one take the next step toward healthy hearing! Hearing is one of our five basic senses and like the others, it brings information to the brain to help us understand and perceive the world around us. Because hearing happens in the brain, adopting hearing aids is not like getting a pair of glasses that immediately corrects a mechanical issue in your eyes. It can take time and patience to find the technology and settings that are right for each individual. Sticking by your loved one through the entire process can be a comfort and encouragement for them to reach healthier hearing. The following tips may be helpful in providing the best support to your loved one during and after their appointment:
If possible, set aside a full day for being with your loved one during the appointment and after. Although audiologists differ in their initial consultation process, expect the appointment to last approximately one hour for discussing hearing loss, testing, and treatment suggestions. Your loved one’s hearing health professional will agree that support is important during the consultation and should welcome you to sit with your loved one during the consultation. Depending on how big the testing area is, they may allow you to be present during the hearing tests too if you are able to remain quiet for extended periods of time while your loved one completes their test. My friend’s audiologist had a large testing room that both the audiologist and my friend allowed me to sit in to watch how the test was conducted. The audiologist explained each step of the tone, speech, and bone conduction tests to me while my friend was in the hearing booth so that I could help my friend remember the tests that were conducted and the explanation of her results. After the test, the audiologist described my friend’s results to her and offered treatment suggestions. I was present during that process to help her remember what questions she wanted to ask about hearing aid features and the use of her cell phone with the new technology.
After hearing what features my friend was interested in, the audiologist was able to immediately fit her with a 60-day trial of new, behind-the-ear hearing aids that would benefit her unique hearing loss. After the Real Ear measurements were conducted to set the volume in each ear to the correct level, both my friend and I were blown away by the results. My friend had gone from not being able to understand me when she couldn’t see my face to being able to converse with the audiologist who had walked halfway down the hall out of sight! She was even hearing sounds she had not been able to hear before, like her jacket arms rubbing against her sides as she moved. It may be surprising and sometimes emotional when your loved one relearns sounds that they have not been able to hear for an extended period of time. Turn the situation into an event of celebration as they regain sounds in their environment!
After the appointment, your loved one will likely be overwhelmed by all the information and new sounds that might be present. The world may now seem very loud! For those who were given new hearing aids like my friend, it can take time to get used to the feeling, sounds, and upkeep of the new technology. After my friend’s appointment, we spent the rest of the day together getting her favorite meal and doing some slower paced activities (shopping and a walk outside) so that she could get used to her new devices while also doing an activity that she enjoys. Later that evening we read the instruction manual for her new hearing aids so that I could help her remember how to care for them or troubleshoot if need be.
It is important to continue being present in your loved one’s life for the next several weeks after the hearing health appointment. Whether they received a consultation and are still considering their next steps or if they were given a trial of new hearing aids at their first appointment, your loved one will need support and a safe space to discuss all that they are going through and to make decisions about how to talk to their hearing health professional next.
If they did receive new hearing aids, help your loved one write down additional questions that he or she would like to ask when following up with the audiologist to either purchase the hearing aids or conduct a trial of another brand. If your loved one needs to ask questions about their hearing health or have their hearing aids adjusted, some audiologists may offer telehealth appointments so your loved one can receive care from the comfort of their own home!
My friend really enjoys how her hearing aids connect to her phone via Bluetooth so that she can communicate hands-free with her friends and family while carrying out her daily activities. At her next appointment, she plans to ask about additional accessories that will help stream TV audio to her hearing aids too! There are so many options with new hearing aids, so be sure to encourage your loved one to ask about any and all situations that they would like additional hearing help in.
I hope this two part series helps friends and family of those who may be ready to take a step in the direction of hearing health. With proper treatment, support, and a good relationship with a hearing health professional, your loved one can find a positive new chapter in their world of communication!