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August 4, 2011 9:49 AM   Subscribe

New digital hearing aids. Help me adapt.

I've had bad hearing all or most of my life. Tried analog hearing aids 15 years ago; not much use. With the new ones, I'm now able to hear people in meetings, understand more dialog in movies, etc., so it's generally good. But my ears feel 'wet' and itch a lot if I use domes. Without domes, the devices fall off more, and get gunked up sometimes. Also the audiologist strongly recommends the large domes, but gave me some smaller ones to try. They're better, but my ears are still kind of unhappy.

I'm a bit sensitive about comments about my age, since my hearing loss isn't age related, though I am gray-haired and grown up. I didn't abuse my hearing with rock-n-roll, sadly, I just got some weird genetics. Also, any general advice on adapting is welcome. Thanks.
posted by Mom to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Use the domes. Use the large ones if your doctor recommends them; it will make a difference in how well the hearing aids work for you. (Any chance you've got a "cookie bite" loss? Your description sounds an awful lot like mine... the idea of the large domes is to block out direct sound in favor of that amplified through the aids; the smaller ones don't do that, and (for me anyway) don't work nearly as well.)

It takes a couple weeks, but you do get used to it; eventually the itchiness and the underwater feeling goes away if you wear the aids consistently (and even more eventually your ears will start to feel weird when you're not wearing them.)

I'm a bit sensitive about comments about my age

I think people's association of hearing aids with age is not nearly as strong as it used to be. Lots of folks walk around with those big bluetooth phone things jammed in their ears all day; by comparison hearing aids are really unobtrusive: I've been wearing a BTE style for a year or two now -- I'm 39 -- and people only ever notice I'm wearing them when I take them out to change the batteries or something. And even then I've had people assume I was wearing a really fancy bluetooth headset instead of hearing aids.
posted by ook at 10:18 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: I've been googling for 5 minutes and I'm still not sure what a dome is or where it's supposed to go on the aid. Don't you have a mold that goes in your ear? It should fit snugly and if not, get another one made. I have 2 clear silicone molds. I make sure the aid stays dry and clean by using a desiccant container like Dri Aid at night. In the morning, I make sure my ears are clean and dry before I put my aids in. Yes, it feels weird to have something in your ear all the time, but you get used to it same as anything else. It's like wearing new shoes. If it's been more than a month, then something just doesn't fit and you should go back to your audiologist.

As far as the age thing - people that know me know that I've been hearing impaired all my life. People that don't know me can fuck right off. (Though I've never had any comments about my age related to hearing.)
posted by desjardins at 10:24 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Is this what you're talking about? Wow, that does look uncomfortable. Seriously, get a custom made mold.

One other thing - it's common to have auditory hallucinations when you take them out at night. Not like "the voices are telling me what to do" but like there's a radio playing in the next room. Your brain gets used to the amount of input during the day that it just makes it up when it's too quiet. It's like tinnitus; there's not much you can do about this. I put my hearing aid back on, double check to make sure there's not an actual radio playing, and go back to bed.
posted by desjardins at 10:28 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: They're behind the ear, with a wire that goes in the ear, thta has the speaker on it. The dome fits over the speaker and makes the fit snug, as well as manages the sound. The part in the ear is not molded. like this: http://www.hearingaids123.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/open-ear-hearing-aid.jpg
posted by Mom at 11:50 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: I've worn hearing aids for 31 years now, and I am pretty sure I have commented in AskMe threads about hearing aids before. I wear C-I-C hearing aids, which are more expensive, but I have a severe loss and wear them all day every day, so they are an essential item for me.

You may need to begin to think of the hearing aids in the same way : as a medical necessity for you to get along like everyone else. In that way, you might be able to justify a custom-made mold like desjardins suggests.

I am very, very, very used to hearing aids obviously after all of these years. One thing that I have started doing in recent years, particularly in the more humid climates I have been living in, is to periodically take the aids out of my ear for 15 minutes at a time. If I am working on the computer or doing some sort of quiet activity it's easy to just take them out for awhile. That can help with a moist or itchy feeling, which I think will significantly decrease after time, anyway.
posted by Slothrop at 12:37 PM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: I feel much older when I have to keep asking people what they said than I do when I wear my hearing aids. And, yes, you do get used to the domes and the itching stops. I've had both bigger domes that expand and completely fill up my ear and smaller ones that don't. I like the smaller ones better, but there's a lot less feedback with the bigger ones. My hearing aids are probably adjusted to the specific domes I'm using (or that the audiologist thinks I'm using).

Digital aids are very easily programmed and adjusted. Mine record at least some amount of how I use them (maybe just the specific programs and volume), but then the audiologist can see that data and tweak the programming.

My hair is pretty short, but most people don't notice the hearing aids at all. The new ones with domes are a lot less noticeable than those big plastic plugs that they used to be.

Good luck,
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:51 PM on August 4, 2011

I've worn hearing aids for the past 21 years, although my hearing loss is congenital and it took my parents a while to figure out what was going on with me. (I'm 24.)

My advice is to just suck it up and get real hearing aid molds. Domes are for old people who are self-conscious about being old. Get the earmold made of a softer material so it's comfortable.
posted by autoclavicle at 2:18 AM on August 5, 2011

Mine looks like Style #2 on this page - the style lets the ear "breathe."
posted by desjardins at 7:26 AM on August 5, 2011

Response by poster: autoclavicle, the behind-the-ear is good, actually. I had a molded, in-the-ear aid previously, like, 15 years ago, and it was not good. The 'dome' is fitted over the speaker, and it better because it lets in air. My ears get really wet with a large dome; I had to use a smaller one.

If anybody comes back in; best place to get domes, and batteries for not so much money?
posted by Mom at 9:44 AM on September 14, 2011

Response by poster: ook, yes, cookie bite is a good descriptor. I've also had it described as a 'notch' in my hearing, along with generally poor hearing. I'm not unhappy with the type of aid; I selected it because it has a streamer that can connect to phone and computer via bluetooth. Which I don't end up using so much, but the hearing aids are fine. The innards are full of digital goodness and the quality is far better than my old analog aid that never worked out.

Desjardin, As far as the age thing - people that know me know that I've been hearing impaired all my life. People that don't know me can fuck right off. Thank you for that.

Probably should have ask.me'd before getting them, but I'm fine with the style. A friend got new in-the-ear aids from the same place, and is less enthralled, but not unhappy.
posted by Mom at 9:51 AM on September 14, 2011

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