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Expert Advice On The Fitting Process

Neil J. DiSarno of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has some valuable information to share with those that are being fit with hearing aids. He acknowledges that hearing loss is affecting a large number of baby boomers and shares his advice on the fitting process:

"I would like to point out that although the effects of hearing loss differ as a result of type and degree of impairment, one important aspect to be mindful of is that the use of hearing aids is only part of a plan of treatment. Although it is a prime component, amplification in the form of hearing aids only brings sounds closer to the individual. How the individual’s auditory system processes that information differs considerably among those with impaired hearing. This is one reason some individuals benefit greatly from the use of hearing aids and others somewhat less.

The treatment following the fitting of hearing aids includes extensive counseling that is tailored to the degree of impairment as well as the lifestyle of the individual user. Hearing aid users must establish realistic expectations with regard to the benefit they can expect. Although hearing aids have become more technologically advanced in recent years, it must be kept in mind that the auditory system is the most complex organ in the human body. When it becomes altered, either through the process of normal aging, or other health-related factors, it can leave the individual with limitations ranging from an inability to hear soft speech which is easily addressed by hearing aids, to complete inability to understand any speech information, even when using very powerful hearing aids.

Another factor to consider is the change that occurs in how the brain processes speech. Consider this example. A twenty-something and a sixty-something both have their hearing checked and learn that hearing is within normal limits. Each individual receives a cellphone call while dining in a very noisy restaurant. If you are me, you are amazed that the twenty-something appears to have no difficulty at all understanding the conversation. The sixty-something on the other hand can barely understand who they are speaking with, much less what is being said. Remember, each had quite good hearing on a hearing test.

The brain’s ability to understand speech in background noise undergoes changes and this imposes limitations on how the aging auditory system processes speech under those circumstances. Now, add a bit of hearing loss or a foreign accent to the cell phone situation and you can imagine, or probably already live with that frustration. Help can be found for many of the limitations impaired hearing imposes on an individual; however, appropriate counseling and realistic expectations are key to successful rehabilitation."

Source: What Should Be Done About Hearing Loss? By  THE NEW YORK TIMES Published: February 27, 2013