18 December 2009

Self-consciousness greatly affects use of hearing aids

Many hearing aid users still believe that their hearing aids signal all sorts of things about themselves to other people.

Many hearing aid users still believe that their hearing aids signal all sorts of things about themselves to other people. This greatly affects how well they adapt to their aids, according to a new scientific report, which also concluded that a happy hearing aid user is the strongest advocate for others to get hearing aids.

A large proportion of people trying to adapt to using hearing aids for the first time believe that their devices send a variety of signals about them to the world around them. This perception greatly affects their thinking when considering whether or not to wear their aids. Only a minority view their hearing aids first and foremost as a technical means to improve hearing.

This finding was described in a scientific dissertation titled ’Coping with emergent hearing loss’ by Susanne Bisgaard, an anthropologist.

Tripped up by self-consciousness
- Many still believe their hearing aid makes them seem old, less attractive, less intelligent and worth less in the eyes of others. Others, however, hold a more practical view. To them, their hearing aids are just a technical means to make them hear. They attach little importance or no importance to any perceived signals, explained Bisgaard, who studied a number of hearing impaired people as they received their first hearing aids.

- In the group which started off with the negative perception about hearing aids, the best results from using hearing aids were achieved by those who had the most positive transitional experiences. Those who found the transition to be more negative were more likely to be overwhelmed by their feelings of self-consciousness. A positive experience during the transition and adaptation to hearing aids is thus essential, explained Bisgaard.

- This is why those who dispense and adjust hearing aids must be able to show empathy and understand the needs of the people they treat. They must also be willing to take the necessary time, be patient and understanding when readjustments are needed.

Need for support and trust
- My research also indicated that it must be possible for the new hearing aid user to return to the dispenser, preferably to someone who the client trusts. New hearing aid users often feel left to their own devices with many unanswered questions that could make them give up, unless they are met with understanding, added Bisgaard.

According to Bisgaard, the very greatest support for new hearing aid users is a satisfied hearing aid user.

Source: Coping with emergent hearing loss, Expectations and experiences of
adult new hearing aid users; dissertation, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, zu Frankfurt am Main, 2008

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