Unlike glasses, people don’t typically get hearing aids at the first sign of hearing loss. That’s because hearing loss usually gets progressively worse over the years in a way that is not immediately noticeable. For a while, you tell yourself “I’m fine.” And maybe you havebeen fine: you turn up the TV a little bit, you ask people to repeat themselves, you stop going to noisy places because they’re too much trouble anyway.
By the time you’re ready to try hearing aids, years may have passed. So you get fitted with hearing aids: things sound crisper and you’re hearing sounds you’ve never heard before. But sometimes — especially as you first acclimate to them — you still don’t understand what certain people are saying to you. Shouldn’t hearing aids fix that?
It’s time to retrain your (listening) brain
Here’s why that can happen: those years when you were slowly hearing less are also years when your brain has not been receiving as much information as it is used to receiving. It’s very likely that over time, your brain learned to focus on the sounds it wasable to hear, and it may have reallocated neural pathways normally dedicated to those missing sounds to other tasks. Once hearing aids make those previously missing sounds audible again, the brain needs to be retrained to properly utilize the “new” sounds.
For this reason, most hearing professionals advise new hearing aid users wear their hearing aids during all waking hoursrather than just when they feel they need their hearing aids. Similar to how you may need to do a set of exercises on a regular basis to improve your abilities after a shoulder injury or knee replacement, hearing aid users often need to practice listening to improve that ability. This “brain retraining” process does not happen immediately, and can be helped along with listening activities.
Your hearing professional can recommend the right activities
Listening activities come in many forms. They can be as simple as reading a book out loud to yourself or listening to an audiobook while you follow along with the physical book. There are computer games and apps available, as well.
One such app is Starkey’s Hear Coach. It consists of three gaming modules with the goal of helping you improve your ability to communicate in noise. Each module has increasing levels of difficulty that you unlock as you improve. You can even track your progress and see your performance over time.
Many of these activities can easily be done at home whenever you have free time.
Start hearing better and living better more quickly
Why would you want to consider listening practice? These “exercises” for your brain will help you get the most out of your hearing aids — and faster, too. Soon, you should find yourself more confidently participating in work functions, social activities, and even quiet discussions with loved ones at home.
There are many listening activity resources available for all ages. To find which ones are right for you, talk to your hearing healthcare professional. You may be surprised at how well you can hear again after a little practice!
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