Adapting to New Hearing Aids
What to Expect and How to Maximize Your Hearing Health

By Ashima Verma

Congratulations on taking this wonderful, big step for better hearing health! It’s an important milestone in improving your quality of life, communication abilities, and overall well-being. But your journey with hearing aids doesn’t end once you buy the device.

In fact, fitting is a continuous process that will help you successfully adapt to the new technology and help make sure that your hearing aids don’t end up in a drawer unused.

What Awaits You After Your Hearing Aid Fitting

Getting Used to New Sounds
Imagine you’ve been living in a quiet bubble and suddenly someone turned up the volume on the entire world. That’s what it feels like with new hearing aids. You might find that everyday noises, like the rustle of your clothes or the ticking of a clock, are surprisingly loud. It’s like having a front-row seat at a rock concert when you’re used to the library.

Here’s a nifty trick: Take it slow. Don’t freak out if the sound of your own footsteps sounds like a herd of elephants. Your brain just needs a little time to recalibrate. Soon, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without these sounds.

Feeling Something in Your Ear
Your ears are probably thinking, “What is this foreign object invading my space?” The sensation of having hearing aids in your ears can be a bit  strange at first, just like wearing a new pair of shoes.

Pro Tip: Keep wearing them. Pretty soon, your ear will be like, “Oh, this? Just my trusty hearing aids, comfy comfy.”

Hearing Your Own Voice
With hearing aids, your own voice might sound odd or echoey, and sometimes even very loud. This is called the occlusion effect, and it’s more prominent for people with high-frequency hearing loss. That is, it’s commonly seen in patients with age-related hearing loss (presbycusis). This phenomenon can be fixed with vents, but in general, as you listen more with your hearing aid, the unnatural quality of your voice will get better and more comfy.

Pro Tip: Practice speaking and reading aloud. You’ll get used to your ”new voice” in no time, and you might even start to appreciate its unique charm.

Steps to Ensure a Successful Hearing Aid Experience

Wear Your Hearing Aids Often
Well, no surprises here! When you are a new hearing aid user, I recommend that you wear them every day, gradually increasing the time the aids are in your ears. Build up this habit to full-time hearing aid use. With time, your hearing will become stronger. Plus, you don’t want to miss out on any juicy gossip, right?

Take Care of Your Hearing Aids
Keeping your hearing aids clean can help you avoid expensive repairs. Always use clean and dry hands to handle your hearing aid. You should also wipe your aid with a soft tissue to remove any earwax or debris. Use the brush that comes with the kit to brush the microphones regularly as they can get clogged.

Practice Listening
Think of it as a game. Engage in different listening exercises, like tuning into different sounds around you or focusing on conversations.

Join a Support Group for People with Hearing Loss
Connecting to others who use hearing aids can be incredibly helpful. Joining HLAA-WA’s HOPE virtual meetings or in-person support meetings are perfect for this reason.

Try Music and Auditory Training
According to ongoing research in auditory rehabilitation, music therapy interventions have been found to have a profound effect on hearing. For example, musicians with hearing loss have enhanced auditory skills, including speech-in-noise perception. Learning to play a musical instrument is particularly effective. It involves auditory processing, coordination, and fine motor skills. Music listening exercises, which are activities focused on distinguishing different musical notes, rhythms, and melodies, can also be used.

Auditory training involves the systematic and purposeful presentation of sounds to help listeners make perceptual distinctions. This process essentially serves as exercise for the auditory brain, improving its ability to perceive speech in noisy environments. Auditory training can be conveniently done at home using computers and mobile devices. There are various tools available, including:

Making The Most of Your Hearing Aids

Enjoy the Small Sounds
Take a moment to appreciate the sounds you may have missed. It’s like rediscovering a world of hidden gems.

Communicate with Loved Ones
Let your friends and family know about your new hearing aids. They can support you by speaking clearly, facing you while they talk, and by being patient with you.

Use Hearing Aids During Social Activities 
Don’t shy away from social gatherings. Your hearing aids are there to help you enjoy these moments completely. Sometimes it helps to turn your hearing aids down. If hearing in noise troubles you, make use of different listening programs available in your hearing aid.

Here’s a Bonus Nugget from Your Hearing Aid Fairy…
Going out to restaurants can be difficult due to background sounds and other unwanted noise. Here’s a helpful app called SoundPrint, which gives you live reading of noise levels in the restaurants in your area. You can download this app from the App Store and plan your trips accordingly.

Final Thoughts

Adapting to life with hearing aids is a journey, but it can significantly enhance your life. With patience, regular use, and ongoing communication with your audiologist, you’ll find that your hearing aids open up a world of sound that you might have been missing. Welcome to a world full of clearer, richer sounds!

About the Author

Ashima Verma is an audiologist with a passion for advancing hearing health and helping individuals with hearing loss. With experience in clinical audiology, she is currently exploring PhD programs to further her expertise and contribute to the field.

The Things We Do When We Have a Hearing Loss:
The Final Chapter (I Hope), or How I Got My BAHA

By Rick Faunt

You might have read part one and part two of my story, where I chronicled my attempts to improve the hearing on my right side. The short version of why I have that hearing loss: I have a non-functioning Eustachian tube, and the bones in the middle ear have rotted away from too many infections. I had seven surgeries to clean the area, insert tubes, and place (and replace and replace, etc.) the prosthesis.

Finally, the doctors and I gave up on that approach and decided on a new type of hearing aid. The goal here this time was to remove the hearing aid from the ear canal and allow the ear to drain and dry itself.

An example of a BAHA.
Photo credit:
Oticon Medical.

What’s a BAHA?

The Bone Anchored Hearing Aid, or BAHA, had been used in Europe for a while and had made its debut in good old U.S. of A. Back then, I was the third patient at the VA to receive a BAHA, but in the 20 years or so since, the BAHA has become more prevalent. Basically, it uses bone conduction to transfer the sound to the inner ear. A titanium post is inserted into the mastoid bone above the outer ear and the processor snaps onto the post. The processor vibrates, these vibrations are carried through the bone to the inner ear, and the sound is processed normally.

The BAHA comes in several styles and colors. The style will depend upon your hearing loss. Generally, the BAHA is indicated for mild to moderate conductive hearing loss; however, it is also effective for single-sided deafness. BAHA accessories are available: directional microphones, audio adapters, and others. Cochlear decided that t-coils are not needed in BAHAS now and replaced them with Bluetooth. I have mixed emotions about that.

Ah-Ha! Hearing Better with a BAHA

But I am very pleased and excited with my BAHA. I am hearing better than I have in years. The first night I had the processor, I was in a meeting in a hotel room with five other veterans, and I was able to hear and follow several conversations well enough to make appropriate responses and not just make up answers. Veterans, at least the ones I hang out with, are a loud and boisterous group, so being able to do this was fantastic. I got several comments that night about how responsive I was and how people hadn’t seen me smile so much in years. That is the good side! The aid works very well for me.

The downside is that with the t-coil now being an accessory, I have to remember where the adapter is and take time to let everything connect via Bluetooth. That means another device hanging from my neck, and if the phone rings, I have to reconnect the Bluetooth with the phone, so I miss some calls.

The BAHA Surgery

Now I’ll describe the fun part: the procedure. Getting a BAHA involves some relatively simple surgery. The level of anesthesia depends upon the doctor and patient tolerance. I was originally told I would have a general anesthetic, but the anesthesiologist decided I was young and robust enough to tolerate a local. I was given what she called the “happy drug.”

First, around the area where the implant is going to be, they fold back a flap of skin and scrape off the hair follicles to prevent hair from growing back around the abutment (the titanium stud). I am guessing, but I think the size of the area was about a half dollar size; it ends up with a quarter-sized area that is bald. Then a hole is drilled, tapped, and the stud is screwed in. Since I was mostly awake and drifting in and out of “never-never land,” it was somewhat disconcerting to hear the doctor ask for a high-speed drill, then a torque wrench, and then finally — the fun part — I heard, “Not deep enough, back the stud out.”

More drilling was heard and felt through the mastoid, and then the doctor again asked for the torque wrench. This time he seemed to be satisfied, and he continued his joking with the resident doctors.

An Easy BAHA Recovery

I found out later that I was the third person to receive a BAHA at the VA Hospital, so I was, once again, that guinea pig that I complained about in earlier articles. This time, though, I didn’t mind; everyone had a goal and knew what the result should be.

The whole procedure took about an hour and a half. The only complication, which resulted in nausea, was a reaction to being given too much codeine on an empty stomach. Unlike previous surgeries on my ear, I was able to take normal showers and had no lifestyle restrictions.

In the days following the implant, I can’t tell you if I had pain or not because I used the “happy pills” they gave me. But I don’t recall having any of the problems that I thought I might have. Although, if the wind is cold and the stud uncovered, it creates one heck of a chill!

After the abutment is implanted, it takes about three months before the processor is attached. The delay is to give the bone a chance to grow around the implant and make a solid contact for conducting the vibrations.

BAHA for the Win: Near-Normal Hearing

At this point, other than the relatively minor factors I’ve discussed, I am finding the BAHA to be an exceptional hearing device, and I am very pleased with the results. In fact, the day I got my processor, the audiologist gave me a quick hearing exam and stated that, on that side, I had near-normal hearing. Also, since one goal of getting the BAHA was to clear the ear canal, I have not noticed a recurrence of the chronic ear infections, and I have discontinued use of the antibiotic.

It is certainly worth discussing with your hearing care specialist to determine if a BAHA would meet your needs.

About the author

Rick Faunt has been a member of HLAA, in its several names, since 1996. He has held nearly every office at the Chapter and State level and continues to this day. He is a retired Boeing worker and was a consultant/installer of various Assistive Listening Systems for the hard of hearing.

Our Latest News, March 19, 2024

A star hearing loss advocate wows with a TED talk, a big local legal victory with national implications, and more.

Washington State Hearing Loss News

Last Chance to Register for Our Annual Meeting Online

THIS SATURDAY, March 23, 2024

There’s still time to register to attend our annual meeting via Zoom. Our in-person event is fully booked, but you can still attend online.

We have awards, updates, and a chance for you to connect with Rep. Tina Orwall, our greatest ally in the Washington State legislature. After the meeting, our board will meet, and you’re welcome to join.

Remember, all activities in-person and online are fully hearing accessible with ASL interpreters, live captions, and a hearing loop.

Read more about the day’s festivities on our blog.

If you’ve already registered, thank you! We look forward to seeing you in person or online.

crystal stall award with deep blue background


Looking for In-Person Support for Your Hearing Loss?

Several support groups are available to you here in Washington State, including online (HOPE), Whatcom County, Renton, and Panorama in Lacy. Visit our website for more information and ideas, or read on below.


HLAA-Whatcom County Meeting
April 20, 2024

Meet Jess Taluth, Field Representative from Dogs for Better Lives, at the next HLAA-Whatcom County chapter meeting.

The award-winning HLAA-Whatcom County Chapter meets the third Saturday of every month at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, 2600 Lakeway Drive, Bellingham, Washington. Social time starts at 9:30 am and the meeting runs from 10:00 – 11:30 am. Live CART is provided and the room is looped. Everyone is welcome.

color photo of golden retriever or yellow lab, blurred green grass in background

Renton Hearing Loss Support Group
Friday, April 12, 2024

You’re invited to our in-person Renton Support Group meeting. This group meets the second Friday of each month (except July and August) at 1 pm at the Renton Senior Activity Center, 211 Burnett Avenue North in Renton. No need to register; simply check in at the front desk.

This group is led by our award-winning HLAA-WA Secretary Glenda Philio. A hearing loop is available, and everyone is welcome. Always free.

graphic with purple background and color photo of woman with white hair. she's wearing a bright blue top. text reads hearing loss help, renton support group, april 12, 2024, 1 to 2:15 pm, renton senior activity center

Next HOPE Meeting: April 3, 2024

Telehealth captions and finding help with auditory training after cochlear implant surgery were two of the topics we discussed at our March HOPE virtual support meeting.

Facilitated by a caring, compassionate HOPE Crew, these monthly virtual meetings are free, live-captioned, and open to everyone with hearing loss and to their friends and family. You’re welcome to ask questions, and also to simply relax, listen, and spend time with people who understand what it’s like to live with hearing loss.

We hope you can join us.

Hearing-Accessible Events Coming Up in
Mount Vernon

The beautiful vintage Lincoln Theater in Mount Vernon is LOOPED. That means you can enjoy lots of events by turning your hearing aid or CI to T or telecoil mode to hear more clearly. Coming up…

  • April 4, 2024 – Jake Shimabukuro, live in concert
  • April 26, 2024 – Best of the Seattle Comedy Competition
  • May 5, 2024 – Villalobos Brothers Cinco de Mayo, live in concert
  • September 19, 2024 – Hot Tuna, 60s band with Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, live in concert

The Lincoln also shows movies several times a week. We didn’t see any open-caption shows mentioned, but you can call and request them.

Remember, you can find hearing-friendly events all across Washington State on the events page of our website.

color painting of an old time building. sign reads 1926, lincoln theater

National Hearing Loss News

Local Legal Victory May Have BIG National Impact, and You May Have a Claim

In a legal victory for people with hearing loss, a lack of coverage for hearing aids may violate the Affordable Care Act’s antidiscrimination provision, according to a recent settlement in the Schmitt v. Kaiser lawsuit here in Washington State. And you may be eligible to file a claim.

Thanks to local and national lawyers and advocates, a $3 million settlement fund has been established. If you were covered under certain Kaiser Foundation Health Plans in Washington State between October 30, 2014 and December 31, 2023, and you paid out of pocket for hearing aids or related services, you may be eligible to file a claim.

Read more about how to file a claim, why this may have broader implications for insurance coverage, and more in this excellent summary from HLAA.

A special thank you to John Waldo for his leadership in this lawsuit. John passed away recently. We’re imagining him smiling down on this huge win.

The deadline to file a claim is April 2, 2024, so don’t wait.

color photo of a judge's gavel, gold scales representing justice blurred in the background

Registration Is Open for the HLAA National Convention This Summer

Sunshine and resort luxury join the usual wonderful combination of friendship and learning at the HLAA convention, June 26-29, 2024, at the Sheraton Grand Resort at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Arizona.

Shanna Adamic will be the keynote speaker. The research symposium will focus on the emotional side of hearing loss. And that’s just the start of all the terrific opportunities. Will we see you there?

color photo of a southwest-style hotel, swimming pool, and lake. puffy clouds and blue sky above

How Can You Enjoy and Play Music with a Hearing Loss?

Video from the 2023 convention symposium is now available

Music is important to nearly everyone, and losing the ability to appreciate or play music can be a tremendous loss. But there’s hope.

At the HLAA convention last summer, the research symposium focused on the joy of music and loving your ears. Topics included listening safely to music, preventing hearing loss whether you’re a listener or a performer, and perceiving music when you have cochlear implants. You can watch the series of symposium videos on the HLAA website.

illustration of musical notes

Are AirPods About to Become Hearing Aids?

Apple’s AirPods Pro already have some hearing-aid-adjacent type of functions, but these devices may go even further with the next iOS 18 update via an “official hearing aid mode.”

How do you use your AirPods Pro to hear better? We’d love your feedback. Your tech insight may help others: webmaster@hearingloss-wa.org.

close up of white earbuds with blue background

Hearing Loops & Telecoils Spotlight

What You Don’t Know About Hearing Aids

You can learn a lot from Juliette Sterkens.

Hearing aids can help you hear, but tips, tricks, and tech can change your life. And there’s no better messenger on the subject of hearing aids, assistive tech, and hearing loss than Juliette Sterkens, spokeswoman for HLAA’s Get in the Hearing Loop program.

Juliette’s incredible, passionate TEDx Oshkosh talk has already earned over 183,000 views and almost 400 comments. We encourage you to watch the video, like and comment, and share with everyone you know. It’s that good.

color photo of a woman with short white hair in a bright red dress. she looks excited and is sitting on the edge of a stage. in the background, a large sign reads Ted X Oshkosh


Stay Involved with HLAA and HLAA-WA

We’re glad you’re part of our community.

What more can you do to support people with hearing loss here and across the country?

HLAA-WA does not endorse any technology, nor does exclusion suggest disapproval. We support the full spectrum of hearing technologies for everyone. As an all-volunteer run organization, 100% of every dollar donated is directed to our programs. HLAA-WA is an IRS non-profit 501(c)(3) organization; all donations are tax-deductible as allowed by relevant IRS code.


Related Posts

Telehealth Captions, Auditory Training, and More:
Notes from Our March 2024 HOPE Meeting

If you missed our March 2024 HOPE virtual hearing loss support meeting, here are the notes. Our topics included getting successful telehealth captions (!) and finding help with auditory training after cochlear implant surgery.

You can read more about our HOPE program here. Notes from HOPE meetings are always available on our blog shortly after the meeting.

Captions for Telehealth Appointments: A Victory!
Patience, persistence, and perseverance paid off for one attendee who needed captions for her telehealth appointments. After complaining to many people and drawing upon HLAA and all her resources, the attendee drafted a formal letter. The letter stated she was a person with a hearing disability and she needed captions for the appointments, but she was being discriminated against. In the letter, she asked the provider to use a platform that included captions, and the clinic did so! If you’d like to see a copy of her successful letter, please let us know: webmaster@hearingloss-wa.org.

Follow-Up Note: Starting September 3, 2024, all video platforms and video conferencing, including telehealth, will be required to have built-in accessibility features. Read more about the new rule here

Video of Dr. Chad Ruffin at Panorama
Dr. Chad Ruffin, local ENT surgeon and CI recipient, spoke to the hearing loss support group led by Carolyn Odio at Panorama in Lacey. His topics included hearing loss, hearing aids, and cochlear implants. You can watch the video of Dr. Ruffin’s presentation on YouTube.

A Light-Up Doorbell and a Helpful College Student
A nursing student from Green River College visited a couple attendees who live at Aegis Assisted Living. The student, who is deaf, wanted to help Deaf and hard-of-hearing people by explaining their rights and helping them advocate. The attendee didn’t hear the doorbell when the student entered, so the student suggested a doorbell that lights up. The attendee was pleased to learn they can simply request the doorbell.

Jury Duty Accommodation Concerns
An attendee was called for jury duty and expressed her concerns about how to serve without hearing accommodations. Some group members suggested possibly being released from jury duty; others suggested that they’ve wanted to request accommodations but had no way to do so. 

Concerns with Adjusting a Cochlear Implant at the Opera
While at the opera, an attendee was reluctant to pull out his phone to adjust the volume on his CI during the performance. He was concerned that the light would distract others in the audience. The group suggested dimming the phone background, using reverse contrast on the screening, and learning to adjust the CI manually/tactically.

Help and Guidance for Cochlear Implants
An attendee asked the group for advice on listening exercises after he received his cochlear implant. The group suggested using Bluetooth with a smartphone.

Note: Some auditory training programs can be done on the computer; here’s a list from HLAA.

Training in American Sign Language
An attendee asked for information on learning ASL. The group suggested LifePrint

New Insurance Benefits for Hearing Aids in Washington State

By Becky Montgomery

doctor in white coat with stethoscope stands to the right side, leaving a sky blue background to the left. he is cupping his hands around a silhouette image of a man, woman, and two children.

Great news! As of January 1, 2024, thousands of people in Washington State can finally use their health insurance to get hearing health care, thanks to a new state law.

And the required insurance benefit is generous: up to $3000 per ear every three years. This amount is enough for most people to buy the hearing aids they need — most people pay a bit less than $2400, according to Hearing Aid Price Tracker. This coverage is a huge boost, especially for people with hearing loss who would be helped by working with a skilled audiologist and added enhancements like Bluetooth.

Who does the new law cover?

The new law benefits thousands of people in Washington:

  • People employed by companies who aren’t self-insured and who have more than 50 employees
  • Workers in the public school system
  • Employees of the State of Washington in a position covered by the State Employees Benefits Board.

With this new law, Washington State is much closer to ensuring that everyone who needs a hearing instrument can easily get one. We still have a few gaps in insurance coverage: Seniors who have Medicare but not a Medicare Advantage plan, people who buy insurance without a group (such individual policies on the Washington HealthPlan Finder), and people who work for small businesses that do not offer insurance coverage.

What’s next?

Thanks to the advocacy of HLAA-WA and others, our state legislators took steps in 2023 to close some of those gaps, although it won’t be instantaneous. With the passage of Senate Bill 5338, the State of Washington Insurance Commissioner will request a change to our state’s Essential Health Benefits (EHB). The EHB spells out what every health insurance plan must offer, or at least all of the plans that the state oversees (for example, the state does not oversee Medicare or military health plans). It is likely that federal officials will approve the request, and that on January 1, 2026, the new coverage would start for individual and some group healthcare plan providers, including policies offered on the Washington State HealthPlan Finder.

Thank you!

At HLAA-WA, our members and community played a huge role in getting these bills passed into law in 2023. We are proud of these accomplishments, and we are grateful to all who helped.

Update, February 6, 2024: We’re working with the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner for some more details on companies that will offer coverage. Stay tuned.


About the author

 

blurred photo of a woman with short brown hair and glasses.

Becky Montgomery writes about living with hearing loss from a very personal place – she has progressive hearing loss. She managed with hearing aids for 20-odd years but now wears bilateral cochlear implants.

Becky is now retired and works hard at catching up on her reading and movie watching. In the past, she worked at Microsoft, where she was deeply involved in the company’s Employee Resource Group for Disability. She’s also an HLAA-WA Board member.