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Monday, October 17, 2011

My New Hearing Aids in Different Sound Environments

In my previous post on my new hearing aids, I wrote about the speech banana and the sounds that I miss. My hearing aids boost the amplification for the frequencies of sounds I don't hear. The catch is they also boost the volume for environmental noises in those same frequencies. Check out the chart below and you will see that the sound a fan makes is right in the place where I need the most help. That is my dilemma. Without hearing aids, fans are barely noticeable. With hearing aids, they are very intrusive to my listening experience.

My new audiologist assures me that my brain will learn to stop paying attention to background sounds like fans over time. The strategy that I'm using is to have only one program for my hearing aids. Before I had an additional program to use in noisy situations. I ended up using it as my default setting. I didn't give my brain a chance to adapt to these "new" sounds. Right now I'm in an adjustment period, but I'm determined to give this a chance to work.

Here's a description of various sound environments I've encountered during the last two weeks.

  • Outdoor Environment

My hearing aids are a pleasure to wear outdoors. The day after I got them, I had a conversation with a neighbor I had never met before which is something I would definitely have avoided in the past. I was able to hear her just fine. When I walk my dog Rusty, I can hear his tag jingle against his collar ring. I have never heard that before. I asked my husband if it was a new sound because Rusty just got a new collar for his birthday, but he says it's always sounded like that. I am hearing bird song as melody rather than individual tweets. I had to laugh at myself the other day when I told a friend about listening to the cicadas. I exclaimed on how musical they were and not so overwhelmingly noisy. My friend pointed out there's a whole lot less of them around this time of year. Oops. I haven't encountered any weed wackers or snow blowers so far but lawn mowers aren't too bad.

  • Inside the House

The microwave timer sounds different than I remembered. It's much easier to hear as is my oven's timer. The television's sound is better. I'm understanding my husband and son's speech much more easily. When I first got my new aids, my husband washing dishes in the sink was so loud, I asked him to stop. I know what you're thinking, I must be crazy! Well, rest assured, I wised up quick. Now when water is running and the dishes are clanking against each other, I turn my hearing aids down a couple settings to cope. The worst noise of all in the house for me is our bathroom fan. It's unbearable. Unfortunately, the fan comes on whenever the light is on. I'd really like to get that fixed. Until then, the bathroom fan is my biggest challenge in the house.

  • In the Car

I have discovered my car makes a sound when you start up the engine to remind you to put your seatbelt on. I had never heard that before. I actually get a kick out of hearing it in the morning. I'm sure that will wear off but for now it's a novelty. I have the car radio turned to a lower volume level - by as many as 10 settings at time. Unfortunately, I am not yet able to enjoy music on the radio or easily understand what the broadcaster's are saying, no matter what volume setting I try. I have to admit, that's been a bit of a disappointment to me. More times than not, I am leaving the radio off. Road noise on highways is loud but not as loud as it was with my previous aids. I feel like I am coping with it. Before I used to take my hearing aids out when I was driving on highways. Surprisingly, a squeaking noise that I heard my brakes making before is actually less audible now. I have no explanation but it does help me understand why when I had a friend listen to the brake noise, he said everything was fine and didn't seem at all concerned about the noise I was hearing.

  • In my Cubicle at Work

I have two challenges there. One is a space heater. Almost every day my work area is so cold, I turn a space heater on to keep warm. It took me a while to adjust to this sound with my previous aids (remember my comment about program 2) and I'm having to start over again with this pair. Sometimes I recite my audiologist's words - my brain will learn to ignore this noise - repeatedly to myself like a mantra. Sometimes I turn my left hearing aid down a setting or two. The other problematic sound is the HVAC system. Currently it sounds as though a vacuum is going constantly. I'm working on ignoring that too. On the plus side, I can more easily detect when someone is nearing my desk.

  • Best Buy electronics store

This place was a nightmarish cacophony of sounds for me. I actually felt as though I were in physical pain and had to leave the store before my husband was finished browsing. This is not the place to go when you are adjusting to new hearing aids. Just take my word for it.

  • Church

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the choir singing. I really missed that part of the service previously. The only solution for me was to sit right next to them. But naturally my regular pew was on the other side of the church and creature of habit that I am, I was much more comfortable there. I should also add that regular pew was a better spot for hearing the sermon. With my new aids in, the sounds of church - papers rustling and the congregation reading aloud in unison - did not bother me as they had before.

I hope that helps convey a bit of what my listening experiences have been like in the first two weeks of adjusting to my hearing aids. Drop me a question in the comments section if I overlooked a setting that you're curious as to how it sounds. As always, I welcome your comments and advice.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like you really needed these new hearing aids to me, as I remember when there were some noises you described, that I found too a bit noisy, like washing the pots etc..

I don't hear the fans now or air conditioner like I used to. I don't know if thats because I have got used to it, or I have got that little deafer that it just does not register at testings with audiology. But when i trty to listen i find i cannot hear these now.

Birds were a joy of hearing when out and about. But now I don't hear them. I'm lucky if I find the odd one, hearing wise on my walks in parks.

For me its just relyiong on speech.

I have three settings still on my hearing aids. One for every day. The other for reducing noisy background, which I use now and again. And the other for loop.

Aaron said...

Haha definitely sounds like a typical new fitting. I am on my third pair of ears now, and each has been about the same as what you describe. Each pair has only lasted about 4-5 years, and in that time I forget what those sounds are like as I become more deaf.

My latest set of ears is by far the most advanced, and actually tunes out those background sounds automatically (fans, etc). This is NOT a perfect thing, though, since it also brings down the volume of voices! I've learned to be very conscious of my surroundings such that if I go somewhere and it seems everyone is speaking really softly, I ask if there is some sort of fan or background noise, and most times, sure enough there is!

Have fun with your new ears!

Lillian Schaeffer said...

I like how you mentioned the joy you had when you heard the seat belt warning in your car after getting hearing aids. I've had some problems with my hearing for a while now, and I'm finally going to be getting some hearing aids. I'm excited to feel that child-like excitement and wonder as I hear new sounds and ones that I haven't heard for a long time.