|LETTER TO EDITOR
|Year : 2016 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 70-71
Experiences of wearing hearing aids for past 15 years
Vagish Kumar Laxman Shanbhag
Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Yenepoya Dental College and Hospital, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya University, Mangalore, Karnataka, India
|Date of Web Publication||16-Feb-2016|
Vagish Kumar Laxman Shanbhag
Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Yenepoya Dental College and Hospital, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya University, Mangalore - 575 018, Karnataka
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Shanbhag VL. Experiences of wearing hearing aids for past 15 years. Indian J Otol 2016;22:70-1
Hearing aid is a lifelong companion and precious valuable partner to those with hearing loss. Here, I am sharing some of my experiences of wearing “in the canal hearing aids” for the past 15 years. Initially, the sounds heard would be loud and used to cause pain in the ear if I wore it in outside environment. Now, I am adjusted to it. I observed that the natural ability to recognize the direction of sound is lost after wearing the hearing aids for few months, which sometimes caused difficulty in understanding group discussions. Also, I have observed that after regular continuous wearing of hearing aids for 1 or 2 months, the natural ability of unaided hearing is significantly lost.
Since hearing aids should not be exposed to moisture, rain, and sweat, I had to limit outdoor activities to avoid sweating and prevent damaging it. I always used to carry an umbrella with me to get protect the hearing aids from rains. Damaging the hearing aids meant losing at least 15 days of college academic activities until the hearing aids get serviced. I regret missing playing outdoors because of the fear of sweat damaging the hearing aids. In fact, several times I have experienced sweat stopping my hearing aids temporarily and they regain proper functioning only when kept in a box containing silica gel beads overnight. I urge hearing aid companies to produce low-cost water proof hearing aids, especially for children and adolescents so that they do not miss their precious playing in the golden years of life. The waterproof “behind the ear hearing aids” available at present are significantly costlier than the “normal” hearing aids.
Wearing hearing aids in bus or in parties was painful because of loud sounds looming in the ear. Sound spoken by peers would be masked in noisy environments. Moreover, when hearing aids are exposed to loud sound, it appears to synchronize and produce sounds causing irritation and thus masking of other sound. I would then wonder helplessly about whether “in the canal hearing aids” themselves are capable of causing hearing loss because of inability to self-adjust the incoming sounds.
After wearing the “in the canal hearing aids” for 7 years, I tried “behind the ear hearing aids.” But, I noted difficulty in understanding the sound even after 2–3 years of wearing it and sound perception quality was lower than that of “in the canal hearing aids.” Perhaps, this could be due to the adaptation of my brain to the “in the canal hearing aids” for several years and hence, experiencing difficulty to adapt to other types of hearing aids such as “behind the ear hearing aids.” Hence, I continued wearing the “in the canal hearing aids.”
Last year, I brought a new “in the canal hearing aid” to be used as a backup and particularly to be used at home. However, the sound perception was lower and upon consulting my usual Ear, Nose, and Tongue (ENT) specialist, the sound output of hearing aids was adjusted, but it was still as bad as before. The doctor attributed this to the progression in my hearing loss. I was deeply saddened and consulted the customer care of the hearing aid company regarding the problem experienced. The company recommended me to go to a certified audiologist. The audiologist promptly adjusted the sound and I was surprised to hear a reasonably good quality sound. The audiologist also adjusted my previous hearing aids and I was very happy to experience the new enhanced good quality sound which I had missed throughout the years. I urge the partially hearing impaired individuals to consult an audiologist for buying new hearing aids and for gaining good hearing experience rather than an ENT specialist. I suppose ENT specialists in India are practically less trained about technical hearing aids when compared to a devoted audiologist. I also came to know for the first time from the audiologist that hearing aids are available for trials before purchase.
I feel hearing aids should advance in technology to predict the exact direction and location of sound, capacity to filter background noise, and to be able to hear reasonably the soft sounds in harsh loud environments. In addition, the small “in the canal hearing aids” should incorporate self-adjusting of sound volumes. Some “in the canal hearing aids”, as the one I am wearing can be adjusted only by the doctor or audiologist. So, if exposed to loud sound, removing the hearing aids can only be done to avoid harming the ears and to overcome the inconvenience, but this comes at the risk of not understanding the sounds of surrounding peers and environment. Also, removing hearing aids in social and external environment could lead to embarrassment.
Speech therapy should be a part of every hearing aid regimen. I have experienced that it is very important to train people wearing hearing aids through speech therapy. It is difficult to learn how to understand sound by itself. I am still experiencing difficulty in understanding spoken words even though I can hear sufficiently through hearing aids and rely partially on lip reading, probably because of the absence of speech therapy and counseling in the early years of hearing aid wearing. I urge that ENT doctors in India be trained properly in audiology and technical aspects of hearing aids or at least patients should be made aware of the importance of an audiologist. Improper knowledge of audiology of hearing aids and technical issues related to hearing aids in ENT doctors can lead to decreased quality of sound experience through hearing aids in partially hearing impaired patients, which in some cases may unknowingly lead to the progression of hearing loss and decreased communication, social, and intellectual abilities. I was aware of the importance of audiologist after wearing hearing aids for 14 years.
Usually, patients who wear hearing aids for years will not be aware that huge amount of ear wax may get trapped inside their ears without their knowledge and this may decrease their quality of hearing. This issue requires professional cleaning of the ear. ENT doctors should be empathetic about the issue and make the patient aware of the importance of regular professional cleaning of ear.
It is unimaginable to live without hearing aids for individuals with hearing loss. I hope to see in future that modern advances in technology will bring highly efficient, low cost, all-environment-friendly, and quality hearing aids to brighten the life of individuals with partial hearing loss.
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Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.