Audiologist holding up a hearing aid

A couple weeks ago I attended the stereotypically loud wedding reception of a cousin and, while I found myself struggling to carry on a conversation amid all the noise, my aunt, who was wearing hearing aids that I had fit her with a few months prior, seemed to have less difficulty. I was amazed and impressed. Her state-of-the-art hearing aids were actually helping her to hear as well — if not better — in a very noisy environment than someone (me) with more or less normal hearing! She was thrilled, and so was I!

A little while later, a friend of the family rushed up to me to confirm that I was the one who had bestowed this “miracle” upon my aunt, and to ask if she could bring her mother in to see me for a similar miracle. She told me her mother had hearing aids but HATED them and rarely wore them. If she could get hearing aids like my aunt had, well…maybe she’d actually use them.
Maybe. A BIG maybe. I say that because, while a good manufacturer and quality hearing aids are certainly important, there are many factors that contribute to an individual’s success with hearing aids and, frankly, the manufacturer (or model) of said aids is not first on the list. It’s not second either.

What is at the top of the list? Motivation. Plain and simple. A person who recognizes the negative impact of their hearing loss and is highly motivated to improve their ability to communicate will almost always be successful with hearing aids because they are driven to put in the work and make the adjustment. They are the people who will actually wear their hearing aids (in their ears and NOT in their pocket) so they can adapt. The brain needs training to adjust to the increase of sound, and it takes time. Motivation is key.

And what’s second? Also plain and simple: Realistic expectations. Hearing aids cannot restore hearing to normal, and they certainly cannot magically eliminate all sounds except those one wants to hear. If the individual, however, is willing to accept that the amplified sound might not be what they remember their “normal” hearing to be, and if they understand that the hearing aids can make sound and speech more audible but cannot compensate for other changes in the auditory system, then wearing hearing aids can provide a significant improvement in quality of life. For real!

When I told the friend of the family to make an appointment with me, she back-pedaled a bit. Well…she’d talk to her mother and see what she wanted to do. After all, she really didn’t want to get the first pair, so she wasn’t sure she could talk her into buying a second pair. Also…she couldn’t stand hearing the birds chirping outside! I didn’t force the issue.

I dispensed really good hearing aids to my aunt, but I know that, while the importance of getting good quality hearing aids can’t be underestimated, her success with them was due to her motivation, her willingness to use them and adjust to them, and her willingness to embrace both the good and the less than perfect. She told me she wears them from the moment she wakes up in the morning to the moment she gets into bed at night. And while she doesn’t hear everything and occasionally has to ask someone to repeat something, she is so, so happy with the improvement in her quality of life. Also, she absolutely loves being able to hear the birds chirping!