formats

Adapting to hearing aids

Joan Hatem-Roy Chief Executive Officer

Q: My elderly mother has experienced hearing loss during the last few years. She has denied she had a problem, which has frustrated her family and friends. She reluctantly agreed to visit an audiologist, and, as we expected, she was in dire need of hearing aids. She has used them for just a short time but complains constantly. She finds them annoying and doesn’t want to wear them. How can we convince her she can eventually adapt?

A: It is reported that approximately 25% of adults age 65 to 74 and 50% of those 75 and older have a disabling hearing loss. With the aging population increasing and people living longer, it is reasonable to expect these numbers will increase. The inability to hear clearly can impact an individual’s quality of life and put a strain on personal relationships.

Your mother may have two issues affecting her adjustment to the hearing aids. Despite agreeing to seek the advice of a specialist, she may still be resentful and resistant to wearing the devices. 

Also, anyone who has recently received hearing aids must be totally committed to making them work. This is a gradual process, and a single initial training session most likely won’t be sufficient.

People need time to adjust to the sudden onset of sounds, which can be a stimulus the brain has all but forgotten. Everyday noises that were routine and scarcely noticed can suddenly seem overwhelming, such as noise from chewing and swallowing.

Some people have said they feel they are being bombarded with sounds from every direction. To acclimate to hearing aids gradually, professionals often recommend wearing them at home and avoiding any loud environments for a while. 

Individuals can increase the number of hours they wear them bit by bit. They should anticipate some degree of frustration, which is not uncommon.

Encourage your mother to schedule a follow-up appointment with the hearing specialist. She should describe all the problems she has encountered. The audiologist may be able to adjust the devices and give specific suggestions to make her more comfortable.

I hope your mother’s resistance will not be so strong that it prevents her from adapting to her new hearing environment.

Be patient and encourage her progress. Those of us without hearing difficulties might not understand the challenges faced by someone who has lived in a world of muted sounds for an extended period.  

Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at www.ESMV.org for more information. You can also call us at 1-800-892-0890 or email ageinfo@esmv.org.  Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore