If you’ve been following along with my story, you know that I was diagnosed with hearing loss at age 19, after growing up with undiagnosed symptoms, but I didn’t get my first pair of hearing aids until over a year after my diagnosis.

Once I got my first pair of hearing aids, I had a 90 day trial period to decide whether I wanted to keep it. While this is a great and necessary feature offered by most hearing aid suppliers, it’s also a pressure-filled time for the user. Buying a hearing aid is a major investment, and you have to evaluate your choice within a certain time frame. It’s a tall order when you are also spending your energy just getting used to life with hearing aids and remembering to wear them each day.

The key is to go with your gut. The purpose of the hearing aid is to make your life easier, not more difficult. If the hearing aid is problematic in certain situations, it may not be the right one for you and it might be time to go back to the drawing board.

For example, my first pair of hearing aids made it nearly impossible to hear on the phone. This is because the aids had closed receivers, meaning that all of the sound that came into my ear came from the microphone on the hearing aid. With someone who had moderate loss, like myself, using a closed receiver is debatable. It blocks the user’s existing hearing and makes him or her completely dependent on the hearing aid. The benefit is that you can adjust the volume of the aid to a much higher level without getting feedback (that screaming, whistling sound).

Another issue to keep in mind is the physical fit. My first trial pair felt very loose and kept popping out of my ear. (That’s how one of them got lost in a bar). It wasn’t a very good feeling to have to keep checking to see if they were both safe and secure on my ears every few minutes. I also felt that they were too visible—especially when they were falling off my ear. My goal was to have them be as invisible as possible. I’m lucky that I have thick dark hair that completely hides my hearing aids.  Sometimes, though, I think it would be easier if they were obvious. Then I wouldn’t have to explain to people that I have hearing loss.

Ultimately, I wasn’t satisfied with my first trial pair of hearing aids, so I went to another provider to try a second option. The second pair had an open receiver, which was much less visible and allowed me to hear better in a wider range of situations. It also fit in my ear much more comfortably and cost about $4000 less for the pair.

So, at the end of the summer, I handed over my first trial pair and committed to the second option. I’m really glad that I got the second pair, because it gave some context and perspective to the experience. Without anything to compare the first pair against, I didn’t know if they were as good as it gets or not. It turns out they weren’t.

by Beth Connolly