I have been helping patients find the best solutions for their hearing problems for more than 30 years. During this time, I have met with thousands of patients, some who love their hearing aids and get great results, and some who hate their hearing aids and feel like they have wasted their money. Here are the four biggest mistakes I have seen people make.
#1: Choosing a hearing aid based on what it looks like instead of what you need it to do.
The truth is no one wants a hearing aid. What you want is for your communication problems to go away or be significantly reduced. Smart consumers start with a list of three to five big issues they want resolved, and they ask the hearing aid provider which hearing aid will give them the best results.
#2: Focusing on price instead of results.
It’s not what the hearing aid looks like on the outside that dictates how much it will help you; it’s what’s inside that counts. With digital technology, some hearing aids are amazingly smart: They have multiple programs built into the hearing aids to keep you hearing well no matter where you go or what you do, and they will automatically switch from program to program, adjusting the volume for you. A different hearing aid that looks exactly the same on the outside can be amazingly stupid — a simple amplifier that makes everything louder.
In addition to the cost of the device itself, there are professional fees and expertise included in the price. This is the knowledge and expertise of the person fitting the hearing aid. As with everything in life, you get what you pay for. The better the technology and the more knowledgeable and capable the fitter, the more it is going to cost — but the better your results should be. Not everyone needs the fanciest technology, but, to be honest, everyone can benefit by having a knowledgeable and experienced person doing the fitting.
#3: Thinking that the hearing aid will solve all your problems the minute you put it on.
Your hearing loss did not happen overnight. Most likely, it has gradually been making your world quieter and quieter for 10+ years. Plus, your ears need to work with your brain to let you hear and understand what is being said.
Think of the hearing aids like a prosthetic hand. You need to practice with that artificial hand to learn how to use it. The more you practice, the better you get. At first you may just be able to open and close the hand. With practice you learn how to pick things up and really use it to improve your life. The same is true with the hearing aids. At first it seems like you are just hearing everything and it seems really loud. Over time you learn to listen discriminatingly and easily. Those who use their hearing aids on a regular basis become successful users; those who put them on only occasionally never really get the help they need.
#4: Being fit with hearing aids and never having a postfitting evaluation done.
A fitter asking you how you are hearing is meaningless. You do not know what you should be hearing and, therefore, you don’t know if the hearing aids are working correctly for you or not.
After you have had a few weeks to adjust to your hearing aids, you should have a postfitting evaluation. This could be a test in which you repeat words at a normal conversational level in a controlled environment (like a hearing test booth) or a test where a microphone is put in your ear and a computer checks to see if the prescription is correct. No matter how experienced your provider is, they cannot see how well you are hearing or truly know what is happening inside your ear without doing one of these postfitting tests.