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Gransnet guide to hearing aids

hearing aids

If you've been having trouble with your hearing and keeping up with conversations or following television dialogue have become so difficult that it's interfering with your enjoyment, then you may want to consider a hearing aid. Every individual is different, but as we get older it is likely that we may suffer from some partial hearing loss.
Sound like you? Then the first step is to schedule an appointment to have your hearing tested. If it turns out that you do need a hearing aid, then there are a variety of different options available when it comes to choosing one that will meet your needs and fit into your life. We've put together this guide to give you a starting point for choosing the right one.

Diagnosing hearing loss

If you suspect that you may be having problems with your hearing then you can request a hearing test from your GP. You will then usually get a referral to a hearing specialist who will carry out the test and explain the results to you. You can also request a hearing test from providers of hearing services on your local high street. If it's determined that your hearing would benefit from a hearing aid, you will then be given the option of either getting your hearing aids through the NHS, or through a private vendor. With a referral from your GP, you may also qualify for the AQP or Any Qualified Provider scheme, which enables accredited hearing providers like Specsavers to provide you with hearing care on behalf of the NHS. You can find out if you live in an area that qualifies for the AQP scheme here.

"There has been quite a lot of research about the effects of not being able to hear very well on the wellbeing of the individual concerned. So it's not just about not being able to hear properly, but the feeling of exclusion within a conversation. It's definitely an issue to address." voiceofcare

"My experience with my mother is that she has stopped listening because she assumes the conversations are not meant to include her and got used to being excluded. She finds it difficult to know where the voice is coming from unless it is just one-to-one because, like most people who do not always realise it, she partly lip reads." Lindyloo

Appearance and fit

snall aidHearing aids have become much more discreet thanks to advances in streamlining their technology, and it's likely that most people won't even notice you're wearing one. You can choose from a variety of colours and shapes, and there's even jewellery available that can be worn to mask the hearing aid and co-ordinate with your personal style. If you would prefer a more discreet appearance, hearing aids come in a variety of flesh tones designed to blend in with your skin. Choosing a hearing aid which also fits in the ear well is equally important. A great fit can significantly reduce the time it takes to get used to wearing the device. 

"I forget completely that I am wearing one hearing aid. Many friends say 'I never realised you wore an aid', which pleases me." NanKate

"I've had aids in both ears for five years since I was 59. Certain frequencies were lost due to measles as a child. After much research, I got some really good ones which adjust themselves. The ear piece is as light as a feather and I hardly notice the over the ear battery." Gadaboutgran

"Having just bought two hearing aids, my life has been transformed. I help with a very noisy Mother and Toddler group and find that I have no problem hearing conversation, even with a lot of background noise. The aids are so comfortable that I have worn them on average 14 hours a day since day one. Because I forget they are in, I once got into the bath with them, and once forgot to remove them when getting into bed. Tests showed that I had mild to moderate hearing loss. The Audiologist was extremely helpful in advising without putting any pressure on me. The important thing is to get the best you can and then make them as much part of your life as your clothes." nanaval

Improvements to hearing

Your hearing should improve significantly once you start wearing your hearing aid. Most hearing aids are digital and improve your hearing by clarifying the sounds around you. They can make it easier to pick up lower and higher frequency sounds, and to distinguish individual voices. You should be able to hear people around you or on television speaking more clearly, and it should be easier to follow the changes in music or tones, and distinguish ambient sounds around you.

Initially, you may need time to adjust to being able to hear much more than you are used to, and it's not unusual for it to seem quite loud for a while as your hearing adjusts. You should also make sure that you understand all of the different settings on your hearing aids so that you can determine which best suits a given situation. It becomes more important, for example, to hear what people close to you are saying when you're in a busy public situation, while ambient sound will be more important when at home. 

"Got my aids a couple of months ago - brilliant! Senility in stereo... No more TV subtitles. Sorry - they don't do Dolby... I'm delighted with mine. I can now hear why we talk of 'going for a tinkle'!" feetlebaum

"I finally persuaded my DH to go to the doctor (as the TV was very loud). He went to the hospital for hearing tests and a while later they finally fitted him with a hearing aid. They had offered him one for each ear but he said no at the time. A bit later he decided that he would try having two. He's now using them most of the time but initially found everything very loud. It took him a while to readjust and he doesn't wear them all the time, but it has made a huge difference to our conversations and TV watching." ayse

"I've been wearing two for nearly 40 years now. Don't know what I would do without them." Sewsilver

"My OH is very deaf in both ears. His hearing aids are a mini miracle. He can turn them up, down or off, and join into the loop systems where they are available. He has a gadget that picks up the sound from the television and pipes it straight into his ear so I can have the television sound to suit me. He also has a gadget which he can put on the table when having a meal out with friends which just picks up the sound nearby and not the hubbub." Hunt

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