It’s that time of life again. I’m breaking in new hearing aids before the old ones break down. Although I may be the first one to break down, and I know my family is on edge. If you use hearing aids or cochlear implants, you know what I’m going through.
I’ve lost count of how many sets I’ve had since my first beige behind-the-ear model in 1975, but I’m guessing at least 10 iterations of hearing technology made by a Who’s Who of the hearing industry: Phillips, Unitron, Beltone, Starkey, Widex, and Oticon. (If your company isn’t on the list, I’m open to donations.)
Regardless of who makes them, with every new set of aids, there’s always a breaking-in process that works on the principle of no pain, no gain. Sometimes, when the aids are replaced with the same style, the process is not so bad. But this time, I’m trying out a different model that looks different, feels different, and sure as heck SOUNDS DIFFERENT! All the little knobs and switches are in different places and I’m constantly pawing at the side of my head looking for the program change or the volume control or the battery door.
But I love getting new hearing aids, it’s exciting! They are amazingly cool; they boost our hearing and connect us to other devices and people in ways we once would never have dreamed. But it’s not as easy as getting a new car where you pay for it, put gas in it, buckle up and then step on the gas to a beautiful future together. No, it’s more like taking dance lessons for the first time. You and your hearing aid(s) have to get used to each other; there will be a lot of smashing into each other, painful foot-crunches, and wanting to go in opposite directions. It takes more than a few lessons before the old bump and grind becomes a smooth tango. The hearing healthcare professional usually must perform a series of tweaks on the fit, the venting, the volume, the programs, the highs, the lows and so forth. Then, when you first insert these new ear-babies, the brain just about loses its mind with the shock of the new information pouring in, before it settles down to the business of adapting to it (on no set timeline).
So, pity the poor user while the professional and the brain are tinkering at their jobs. Everything sounds ridiculously loud and different. We can’t imagine it will ever get better or be as comfortable as the old aids. It takes time, patience and sometimes a fist through the wall before you and your hearing aids start tango-ing.
And then there are the unique frustrations of family and friends: it’s not easy living with a loved one who’s undergoing a brain transformation.
In an attempt to help anyone who may be going through this (again), I’m offering a few guidelines. And to emphasize the emotions behind them, I’ve added the popular hashtag used in today’s social media, which is the # sign, followed by the sentiment. For example, when I tell my family we’re about to once again climb on the hearing aid merry-go-round, the hashtag might be #carouselfromhell. If this were a social media page, clicking on #carouselfromhell would take you to a site which lists all comments relating to the stressful merry-go-round.
Here we go. During those weeks of ‘getting used’ to new hearing aids:
Don’t breathe loudly. Especially through your mouth and that includes loud yawns. And if you’re breathing through your nose, clear the passage. #whistlingnosesarenoisy
At dinner, the crashing sound of cutlery jars my nerves. #eatwithyourfingers
Before speaking, get my attention first. Then try saying two words to me, and if it’s not too loud, you may continue. #don’tbeahumanfoghorn #ignoreatyourownperil
Have patience with me, because I will have none with you. #truerwordswereneversaid #i’mnotkidding
But don’t blame everything about my current bad mood on my hearing aids. I may snap at you for many reasons. #justbecauseyouexist
Don’t ask me if perhaps my old hearing aids were better? I’m not putting us through this torture for the sheer pleasure of it. #theydon’tlastforever
If you see me not wearing my aids, remind me to put them in, otherwise I won’t get used to them. #thengetoutofmyway
Keep me away from sharp knives and instruments. #becauseiwillstabtheaids
I don’t care that you can’t hear the TV. I say it’s too loud! #readthecaptions
Just remember, I’m getting new hearing aids so I can hear what you are saying. #becauseiloveyou
I think that about sums it up. I’ll report on my progress in a month or two.