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Helping someone adapt to new hearing instruments

First experiences with hearing instruments can be challenging. Your coaching skills are the key to long-term success.

Advanced hearing instruments are designed to adapt quickly and automatically to changes in hearing situations, and work with your brain to make speech more understandable. They’re also designed to minimize the time it takes getting used to a different way of hearing. But, for the first-time wearer, they still can be an adjustment in life.

Statistics show that many first-time wearers give up before getting through the break-in period. This is a shame, because statistics also show that succeeding with hearing instruments can help avoid the isolation, depression and anxiety associated with long-term, untreated hearing loss.

So you, as a caregiver, have a strong incentive to help your loved one adapt to this change in lifestyle. As a team, you, your loved one and your chosen hearing care professional can work through the brief adjustment period toward years of a more vibrant, more connected life.

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Make sure you’re ready (both of you)

Success with new hearing instruments depends on the willingness of the wearer to accept this change in hearing and in life. With hearing loss, acceptance isn’t just lip service; it tends to come after a process of denial that ends in a better understanding of the need for help. 

Someone still in denial may not be psychologically able to muster the commitment and will to adapt. You, as the caregiver, need to be ready to support them through this process with encouragement, awareness and even some tough love, if needed.

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Set expectations

Someone who’s never worn a hearing instrument before may be hoping for a complete restoration of natural hearing. If so, the first time they try their instruments in a real-world environment, they may be disillusioned. While hearing instrument technology has made great strides in providing clearer, more natural speech, it can’t replace perfect hearing. It’s important to keep in mind that the goal of hearing instruments is to preserve speech clarity in all kinds of situations ... the quiet of a living room, the noise of the street, the banter of a dinner party. 

The technology is complex. The brain needs to relearn how to understand sounds that haven’t been heard in a long time and how to focus on the one kind of sound that matters most for human contact: speech. Your hearing care professional should manage expectations accordingly. Your job is to make sure it’s understood and remembered when the moment of truth comes.

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Stay the course

Scheduled check-ins with a hearing care professional are vital, both to make sure the experience is everything it’s supposed to be and to perform any needed adjustments and maintenance. During the break-in period, you can make success more certain by keeping appointments and following instructions. It’s also important to keep a dialog open with the hearing care professional with the goal of fine tuning the hearing instruments to match your loved one’s profile. The better the dialog, the better the experience.

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Eyes on the prize

Some people adapt to hearing instruments within a day or two. For others, it can take a couple of weeks. The longer it takes, the more likely your loved one is to encounter fatigue and frustration from the effort before the full experience arrives. It’s up to you to help them stay focused on the long-term goal: regaining an active and vibrant life through better hearing.

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