I have been wearing hearing aids for a long time—27 years in fact. I’ve also been fitting people with hearing aids for about 11 years or so. There are things that I say over and over to each new client and each new fitting of hearing aids, even if my client has been wearing hearing aids longer than I have. The rules really haven’t changed much over the years, but the hearing aids themselves sure have.
I remember when I was 6 years old, driving into the city, to be fitted with my first set of hearing aids. I can remember the dim office building, the smell of my new hearing aids and the sound of hearing with them for the first time. I was not a fan, to put it lightly. I did listen carefully to the instructions and I can still remember hearing them, and I myself, now echo those words to my clients.
1) Wear them every day
2) Take them out when you go to bed
3) Open up the battery door when you take them out
4) Clean them every day
5) Never get them wet
I tell my clients these things all the time, and yet I have to admit, I don’t follow my own rules and I certainly did not follow these rules when I was six.
I would often slip them out of my ears on the way to school and put them in my pocket. I would tell my teacher that I had forgotten them at home. Inevitably, I would forget about them and leave them in my pockets only to have my mom find them in the washing machine or dryer the next day. So I guess I had been breaking the rules early on. I would strongly suggest not washing your hearing aids in the washing machine. That is not how we want you to clean them.
Wearing your hearing aids every day helps you get used to them. The odd sounds that you hear the first few days quickly become normal. The background sounds that seems to be a cross for hearing aid wearers to bear, become part of the everyday sounds that we automatically block out. If you only wear your hearing aids every once in a while, it’s very difficult to get used to them.
It’s a good idea to get in the habit of putting your hearing aids in the same, safe place every time you take them out. I know one of my dad’s hearing aids was eaten by his sister’s dog while visiting her in Toronto and another one of his hearing aids is currently rusting on the bottom of the Okanagan Lake— courtesy of my sister grabbing his towel and not knowing the hearing aid was wrapped in it.
While on vacation in Aruba a few years ago, I left my Receiver in the Canal (RIC) hearing aids in my ears while in the pool and in the ocean. I wanted to be able to hear my friends while enjoying the water. I was very careful and I had a set of my old hearing aids with me as a backup. It’s not something I would recommend advising my clients to do, because there is always going to be that person who cannon balls into the pool or that rouge wave that catches you unaware.
Two years ago, I had my twin boys. I stayed in the hospital for 5 days and I kept my hearing aids in the whole time. With being a new mom, anxious to hear every sound and cry of her newborns and having doctors and nurses come into the room at all hours, I didn’t want to miss or hear anything incorrectly. I also know that a number of hearing aids go missing while in the hospital, so I wasn’t going to take any chances. Once we got home, I still slept with one hearing aid in, just to make sure I could hear a cry at night.
The fact that I wore my hearing aids with no problems or discomfort, speaks loudly to how far hearing aids have come since I was 6 years old. The cry (or screaming) of two newborns did not make me cringe at all because they were so comfortable and I even forgot they were there. To be able to hear the soft words of a nurse not wanting to wake the babies was not an issue for me.
So I guess I am a rule breaker when it comes to my hearing aids. But I depend on my hearing aids daily— they are my lifelines. Without them, I would be so isolated and cut off from the rest of the world, that I do push the limits with them. The fact that I can do that though, that I can be hard on my hearing aids, that my two year olds can yank my hearing aids out of my ears and have them fall on the floor, and to go a week without cleaning them, and expose them to moisture, dust, sticky fingers, and they still work is a wonderful testament on how hardy these things really are and how far they have come since the 1980s and even since 2000.
Hearing aids are constantly evolving, trying to become part of our lives and not a hindrance. While I do not recommend doing what I do to my hearing aids, I do suggest that you take a second look at what hearing aids can do now days. These are not your grandparents’ hearing aids; these are your future lifeline to better hearing and a better quality of life.