You may find that adapting to speech that is processed through a hearing aid can require some adjustment, particularly if you have had long-standing, gradual hearing loss. This is why most audiologists provide rehabilitation training after you have purchased a hearing aid. This training will include information on what to expect from a hearing aid, advice on how to adjust to this new way of communicating, and guidance in how to properly use and maintain the hearing aid. More in-depth rehabilitation methods may involve training programs to increase your listening skills and teach you methods to compensate for any mental changes that may be affecting your hearing. This training may include exercises like picking out and listening to one voice among several speaking on a tape. (Computer programs are being developed that would allow this sort of training to take place in the person’s home. In this case, the audiologist would receive progress reports either by phone or by checking the automatic updates provided by the program online. This would permit a less frequent schedule of visits to the clinic.) It’s also important for the people most involved with the hearing aid user to learn the best way to communicate with him, so family members are often included in rehabilitation training.
In addition to hearing aids, assistive listening devices, or ALDs, can help people with hearing impairment understand speech in places such as movie theaters and churches, many of which are now equipped with ALD transmission systems. There are a number of different types of ALDs, including personal frequency modulation (FM) systems and infrared systems. Personal FM systems consist of a microphone used by the speaker and a receiver that transmits sound to the listener via either a hearing aid or headset. Infrared systems use infrared light waves to transmit sound to a receiver, the volume of which can be adjusted by the individual. Infrared systems can also be used either with or without a hearing aid. For more information on these and other types of ALDs, visit www.asha.org/public/hearing/treatment and click on “Assistive Technology.” Your audiologist can help you decide which, if any, of these devices would be appropriate for your needs.
Here’s to hearing
The more you look out for your hearing, the better it will be, so protect your ears with earplugs or earmuffs, and get your hearing tested if you miss words in conversation or have trouble hearing in any situation. If you have hearing loss, assistance is available, and it can help put the pleasure back in hearing again.