Adjusting to new hearing aids

What to expect when you wear your new hearing aids for the first time.

Man wearing hearing aid and using hearing aid app

Getting used to your new hearing aids

Our senior audiologist, Adam Bostock, answers common questions about wearing hearing aids for the first time, and provides his top tips for successfully adjusting to your new hearing aids.

What should I expect when I first wear hearing aids?

If you’re new to wearing hearing aids, you may notice that they can sound a bit strange at first. You may hear noises that you’re not used to, such as a tinny or echoey sound, or even your own voice more loudly. This is perfectly normal, and it’s a sign that your brain is starting to adjust to the new sounds that it’s hearing.

Why can it difficult to adjust to hearing aids?

You may find it difficult to adjust to your new hearing aids because your brain has become used to not hearing some sounds. Hearing loss often happens over a long period of time and your brain will have gradually become used to this.

When you wear new hearing aids for the first time, you will immediately hear sound that your brain is not used to. For some, this can be uncomfortable at first because your brain makes you overly aware of these new sounds.

How long does it take to get used to new hearing aids?

It can take up to several months to get accustomed to new hearing aids, although for some people it can take just a few weeks. Your audiologist will be on hand to support you through the process, at a pace that is comfortable for you.

Getting used to a new hearing aid involves rewiring your brain into thinking the hearing aid sound is your normal hearing. This is called habituation and is achieved by simply wearing the devices. With time, the sounds that seemed uncomfortable or sharp will sound normal to you.

To allow your brain to adjust to the new sounds at a comfortable level, your audiologist may set your hearing aids at quite a low volume to begin with, therefore, you may only get limited benefit from them during the first couple of weeks of habituation.

After this, your audiologist will gradually increase the volume to add more benefit. By this point, your brain will have adapted and is likely to be wanting more volume from the hearing aids.

Hearing aid habituation is a very personal process, and your audiologist will work with you to find the right balance of comfort and benefit for you.

How often should I wear my new hearing aids?

For maximum benefit, you should wear your hearing aids as much as you can, even if you are on your own and not doing much. Although you may think that you’re not listening to anything, you will not be in complete silence, and your brain will still be picking up different sounds that it needs to get used to. The more your hearing aids are used, the more they will trick your brain into thinking they are your normal hearing, and the more comfortable they will sound.

The only times when you don’t need to wear your hearing aids are when you go to bed or when you are taking a shower or bath. Whilst many hearing aids are water resistant, this is usually to prevent them from being damaged in the rain or by dust. Whilst using them in the shower would probably be fine, it’s probably best avoided.

The same goes for swimming, although there are some hearing aids that are specifically designed to be completely waterproof and can be used whilst swimming.

Are there any side effects of wearing hearing aids?

Very few people experience any side effects from wearing hearing aids, however, if you’re new to wearing hearing aids, you may experience the following:

  • Putting a silicone dome/mould in and out of your ear can make the ear canal quite dry or sore. To help avoid this, try to limit how often you remove hearing aids after putting them in at the beginning of the day. You may also find it helpful to use some olive oil spray, such as Earol, to help moisturise the outside of the ear canal.
  • Sometimes you may find a pressure sore from an earmould or a silicone tip. If this is the case then speak to your audiologist as adjustments may need to be made to your hearing aid.
  • You may find that ear wax builds up more easily when you first start to wear hearing aids. Ear wax naturally migrates out of the ear canal, so wearing hearing aids can push wax back into the ear, causing a build-up. Using an olive oil spray once a week before you go to bed may help, and your audiologist will be able to advise further.

Can I wear my new hearing aids with glasses?

Hearing aids can be worn with glasses. They fit to the outer side of the frame and most people experience no problems at all. If you experience a problem with the fit, your audiologist may recommend a narrower device or an in-the-ear solution.

How can I tell if there is something wrong with my hearing aid?

If you are new to wearing hearing aids, there are a few things that you can keep an eye out for, to ensure that your hearing aids are working optimally:

  • My hearing aid is whistling.

    It is normal for hearing aids to whistle if you cup your hand over your ear. This is because any sound leaking out of your ear is being reflected back into the microphones. That being said, your hearing aids should not whistle when you aren’t cupping your hand over them.

    If you find that your hearing aid is whistling at other times, this usually indicates a poor acoustic seal or fit, or that an ear wax blockage is causing sound to bounce back out of your ear canal.

    If your hearing aids are whistling, make sure they are inserted correctly and, if it is still happening, seek advice from your audiologist.

  • There is no sound from my hearing aid.

    If your hearing device stops working altogether, it may due to a blockage stopping the sound from being able to get out of the receiver. Check there is no debris blocking the output of the device and, if necessary, change the filters. If there is still no sound, check the devices have new batteries and are fully charged.

  • My hearing aid is crackling or sounds distorted.

    If you are experiencing crackling or distorted sound, it may indicate a damaged hearing aid receiver or microphone. Seek advice from your local hearing care professional who will be able to check this for you.

What will help me adjust to my new hearing aids?

If you’re new to wearing hearing aids, here are our audiologist’s top tips to help you adjust to them more quickly:

  • To get the most benefit during the habituation process and beyond, remember to wear your hearing aids all day until you go to bed.
  • Keep your hearing aids clean and dry to ensure they are functioning properly.
  • Communicate with your audiologist or hearing healthcare professional if you have any discomfort or concerns.
  • Take advantage of any available counselling or support services to help you adjust to your hearing aids.
  • Keep a positive attitude and be patient as your brain adjusts to the new sounds.

So, if you’re getting used to your new hearing aids, don’t worry if they sound strange at first. It’s all part of the process and, with time and patience, you’ll be able to enjoy the full benefit of your hearing aids.

At Alto Hearing & Tinnitus Specialists, our team is here to help you every step of the way, so please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have.

Article by Adam Bostock

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