Eargo charger with bicyclist illustration
HEARING LOSS

Three steps toward better hearing health

BY JENNIFER GILLIGAN, AU.D. - AUGUST 18, 2018

 

 

The three steps toward better hearing—it’s like riding a bike, you never forget.

Do you remember the first time you learned to ride a bike? It was that incredible feeling of accomplishment and independence that had you telling everyone, friends at school, your aunts, uncles…pretty much anyone who would listen. And it was a skill we never forgot, even if we haven’t been on a bike in years we can hop back on and quickly remember how to get moving. Somehow our brains pull up the “ride bike” file from our memory bank, insert it into our motor skills output extremities (arms and legs…) and we’re off and pedaling in a matter of seconds. Well, the same thing can be said about our hearing.

bike against wall

Though you never seem to forget how to ride a bike, if you’re like us, your joints don’t seem to enjoy riding them as much as you did as a child.

 

As we age, our hearing naturally fades – you might be able to still hear for the most part but not everything is as clear as before and there may be some moments of incomprehension or misunderstanding and you tend to struggle hearing softer sounds like people speaking (they’re mumbling though, am I right?). You have to try harder and harder to comprehend what people are saying as the years pass. So, what can you do to remedy this? That’s where Eargo comes in.

Despite knowing how to ride a bike, hopping back on that shiny two-wheeler can take some getting used to again if you haven’t done it in some time. Well, wearing hearing aids have a similar experience….your brain needs some time to adjust to the wonderful world of full technicolor hearing again. To help you adjust to your new hearing aids, there are three steps you can take… you might call them “The Trifecta” of better hearing health: Audibility, Adaptation and Active Listening. When you master these steps and treat your mild to severe hearing loss you’ll notice a reduction in frustration, increased social participation, and improved overall health and longevity. [1] [2]… and you’ll notice again how easy riding that bike can be.

Continue reading to learn about each of the three steps and how they each contribute to a better quality of life.

#1 – Audibility

Simply put, audibility refers to your ears’ ability to detect whether a sound is present or not. When we experience hearing loss, our audibility tires have gone a bit flat, particularly for certain types of sounds.

Our hearing aids put air back into your tires and help restore audibility for adults with mild to severe high-frequency hearing loss. Ears that struggle with soft and high-pitch audibility aren’t in their best shape to determine these types of sounds on their own. Why? Because a lot of speech, in particular consonants, are soft and high pitched in nature. When our ears don’t detect all of the speech sounds, it leaves our hearing brain working to guess what was said. This is what makes engaging in conversation while experiencing hearing loss seem like riding a bike with flat tires up a very steep hill – it’s exhausting!

Did you know? Eargo hearing aids were engineered to allow your ears to pick up soft, high pitch sounds more clearly. When clients wear Eargo every day, they are taking steps to actively improve their audibility.

#2 – Adaptation

The second step in getting back on the proverbial bike is adaptation. This is where your brain begins to adjust to that new bike smell along with a newfound sense of improved audibility. For the first weeks, you’ll be asking your brain to work hard for the money (so hard for it, honey) to make sense of the soft, high pitch sounds it is starting to receive.

When clients consistently wear Eargo devices, their ears become better detectors of speech apart from background noises. Speech processing is the complicated act of making sense of the spoken word, isolating any background noise, and extracting meaning from the larger conversation.

Did you know? Over time, a brain whose ears are experiencing hearing loss won’t be able to process speech well. Getting back into the swing of things can take time; but, much like getting back on a bicycle, your brain will make sense of which foot to put in front of the other.

Adaptation on a new bike involves getting used to new pedals, a new seat, and how to change gears. Adaptation with a hearing aid involves new sensations, since the nerve fibers and brain areas that aren’t used to being stimulated are waking up thanks to an increase in audibility. As nerves start firing and the hearing brain begins to do a more complete job of processing, sounds may seem louder than memory serves. Sounds like water, packaging, clothing, and footsteps that previously faded into the background now become very noticeable.

Did you know? The hearing brain has a good idea of what to pay attention to and what to leave in the rearview mirror. For first-time hearing aid wearers, time and patience are paramount while sifting through newfound sound stimulation to figure out which sounds should be tuned into and which can be tuned out.

Just like learning (or re-learning!) how to ride a bicycle, adaptation takes practice and perseverance. Wearing your new hearing aids consistently for a few weeks, for at least eight hours per day, will allow sound processing to normalize. Better speech understanding is just on the other side of this hearing hill.

#3 – Active Listening

The third and final step in this trifecta is active listening. On a bike this would be active, focused and determined peddling. Those who have struggled to understand conversation due to hearing loss can begin to withdraw from social activities. The amount of effort and strain on the ears and hearing brain is simply too much, and it often feels easier to withdraw than continue to struggle. Just like when you haven’t been on a bike in a while, it takes time and effort to get back into your old biking shape. Your legs need to feel one with the bike and the road as you build up your stamina.

Active listening means deliberately focusing on speech, taking mental notes of the topic of each conversation, sitting close to the sound source (unless they talk with a full mouth, yuck!), watching the face of the speaker, asking for clarification when needed, and developing confidence in your listening abilities as they come back to life.

Did you know? One helpful active listening technique is to take five minutes of the day with your hearing aids to hone in on one particular sound. This sound can be the breeze in the trees, birds, a song you like, a loved one’s voice, an audiobook or an orchestral piece of music. Take time to mindfully listen and isolate the sounds. This will help your brain in the sifting process.

The Trifecta: As Easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Audibility from Eargo is your new bicycle. While it’s going to help you get where you’d like to go more quickly, you still have to put in the work and pedal.
  2. Adaptation is like first learning to ride that new bike. You’ll likely needed some help, determination and confidence. That’s why Eargo provides convenient telehealth support for our clients, on their schedule. We work with clients to help them adapt to our modern hearing aids, and provide them the tools and advice needed to succeed.
  3. Active Listening is like riding your new bicycle daily for pleasure and exercise. While it takes work to continue pedaling, you arrive at your destination in an enjoyable, efficient way. The more you ride, the fitter you get, the faster you go, and the more effortless it seems!

Eargo’s team of audiologists and licensed hearing health professionals is here to help make these three steps as easy as getting back on that bike. While it may seem daunting at first, it is worth the journey and soon you’ll relive that incredible feeling of accomplishment and telling all your friends, nieces, nephews, kids….pretty much anyone who will listen. We can’t wait to join you on this ride, and you can request a free sample for fit and feel, or call our personal hearing guides with questions at 1 (800) 903-6883. We are all ears for any questions about our product or process.

This post is one part of a series around helping people help themselves hear better, which is the author and audiologist’s area of specialty. For more information on what high-frequency hearing loss is and how it affects us, please read “High Frequency Hearing Loss: What’s the Big Deal?”

Sources

[1] http://www.hearingreview.com/2016/02/study-shows-hearing-aids-improve-brain-function/

[2] https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/news/pressreleases/2017/september/new-research-shows-hearing-aids-change-lives-and-improve-health.aspx