Why Hearing Aids Are Not Enough
As an audiologist who has been dispensing hearing aids for 27 years, I have seen advances in hearing aid technology that are nothing short of amazing. We have hearing aids that change programs automatically as you move about in different sound environments. Hearing aids are now able to distinguish speech from other types of sounds or noises and will automatically enhance conversational speech. Some hearing aids offer patients with deafness in the high frequency range the ability to hear the full range of soft high frequency speech sounds by a method called frequency compression.
All of these capabilities were made possible after hearing aids became digital. So it may seem strange for me to say that advanced hearing aid technology does not solve all of the communication problems that hearing impaired patients have. While they are very important, hearing aids are only part of a process called aural rehabilitation.
What is Aural Rehabilitation and Why Do We Need It?
Aural rehabilitation involves assisting hearing impaired individuals to improve their ability to listen and communicate effectively. This process usually starts with fitting patients with hearing aids and instruction in hearing aid use. However, the process should not end there. Patients who are new to using hearing aids may hear soft speech sounds that they never heard before. They may have to be trained to identify that “hissing” sound as an “s” and learn to discriminate it from other speech sounds like a “t” or “sh” sound.
Once audible sounds are appropriately identified, they can be classified as important (like a doorbell or a kitchen timer) or as unimportant (like the ongoing noise of an air conditioner). The hearing aid patient is taught to focus on sounds and speech important to them and turn their attention away from other conversation or sounds that are not important. Normal hearing people do this every day without consciously thinking about it, but new hearing aid patients may need help to focus attention.
Every patient has different needs and some breeze through the aural rehabilitation process in a week or two. Others may take several months to improve their communication skills. Generally, the longer a patient has had untreated hearing loss, the more training they may require.
Overcoming the Barriers to Better Hearing at Riddle Hospital
The first step to better hearing is to find out if you have a hearing loss by scheduling a hearing evaluation. Once a hearing loss is diagnosed and medical clearance has been given, patients are scheduled to meet with an audiologist for assessment of their communication difficulties and their listening needs.
If hearing aids are recommended, patients are counseled extensively regarding hearing aid use. Additionally, a treatment program is developed for each patient that may include listening exercises at home, computer based training or even auditory training with a speech pathologist when necessary. You may meet with the audiologist for several visits after a new hearing aid fitting to ensure that you are progressing with your hearing aids. Hearing aids today are very sophisticated tools that provide excellent audibility, but the Riddle Audiology team will help you to use your hearing aids effectively and find the value of better hearing!
Denise has been a practicing audiologist for more than 25 years. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology and is certified by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Her areas of expertise and special interest include Diagnostic and Rehabilitative Audiology, Hearing Aid Dispensing and Balance Assessment.
For more information or to schedule an evaluation or treatment, contact the Audiology Department at Riddle Hospital.
Barbara J. Madden, Au.D.
Doctor of Audiology/Director
Catherine M. Marino, Au.D.
Doctor of Audiology
Denise E. Stewart, M.S.
Lisa C. Mackenzie, M.S.
Audiology & Hearing Aid Center
1118 West Baltimore Pike
Media, PA 19063