Linda Bilodeau Regular Hearing Loss/Hearing Aid Check Ups – Just like an Oil Change!

How many people would like to spend less time in their healthcare provider’s office? I’m one of those. I was once of the mind that it’s better to wait until something is wrong before seeking medical or hearing help. I quickly found out that this was not the way to be. Especially as it relates to my hearing loss.

When my hearing loss was first discovered, I thought it only necessary to have a hearing test, determine what hearing aids were best and complete my hearing aid purchase. I assumed all adjustments to my hearing aids would be made during my first appointment. I was wrong! As my audiologist explained, one can only adjust aids to a certain point. It is your lifestyle that determines your hearing needs. Your audiologist cannot duplicate your specific day-to-day living needs in their offices, so multiple visits are required to fine tune the hearing aids so I can hear properly.

To determine hearing needs, the audiologist might ask the following questions: Do you socialize in large crowds in noisy restaurants and bars? Are you the type who only visits with a small circle of friends in quiet environments? How often do you listen to music? Is your hearing diminished enough to need assistive devices in noisy restaurants or other social venues? Can you comfortably listen to television without cranking up the volume? Does your hearing loss appear to impact your work? Can you understand what is being said on the telephone? In conversation, can you hear children’s voices, women’s voices, and male voices equally well?

Once the hearing aids are adjusted, follow-up appointments should follow when hearing aids are first purchased. In addition, it is recommended to have at least one annual follow up appointment. Many may go months or even years without additional hearing loss from the time of their first hearing aid purchase. The only way to be certain you continue to hear as well as possible, is to be proactive. You may not notice subtle hearing changes. My audiologist has surprised me more than once by saying my word recognition scores were decreasing. At one point, I was shocked to learn that my word recognition scores without aids were less than three percent in noise. That is a serious change in my hearing. Your annual hearing test can help pin-point hearing loss problems early and allow your audiologist to make recommendations such things as upgraded aids, a cochlear implant, assistive listening devices, speech therapy, or speech reading courses.

What does this mean? Before purchasing hearing aids, it is a good idea to talk with your audiologist or hearing aid dispense person about follow-up visits and annual hearing tests. My audiologist built the appointment schedule into the cost of my hearing aids. We began with visits every two weeks until the aids are adjusted and then switch to quarterly visits. In addition, we schedule an annual hearing test. I also have the option of calling or emailing him if problems surface between visits.

Though there were times when I thought about canceling a follow-up visit. But I realized, this only works against me. I am grateful when my audiologist discovers problems that I did not know were there. He has found more than one problem: Once he found a tear in one my tubes. On another visit, my audiologist found a small crack in one of my ear molds. Each problem was easily fixed onsite.

Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of keeping track of hearing health and making sure my hearing aids are in good working order. Picking up small problems with hearing aids or subtle hearing changes prevents one from experiencing larger hearing issues. We should all work at keeping our hearing health in the best possible shape.

P.S. I will be out of town so my next column will appear on February 19!

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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