Getting used to open-fit hearing aids
Find out what to expect from your hearing aids, how to get used to them and how to take care of them.
An open-fit hearing aid is a type of behind-the-ear hearing aid. It rests behind the ear and sends amplified sound into your ear through a thin tube connected to a small, soft earpiece that sits inside your ear canal (called an open ear fitting or a dome).
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Modern hearing aids are digital, sophisticated and produce good quality sound. Your audiologist will fine-tune your hearing aids to your prescription, which is based on your hearing test results. Your hearing aid settings are unique to you.
Your hearing aids might not help you hear perfectly in all situations, but they should help you hear:
- speech more clearly
- the TV at a lower volume
- everyday alerting sounds such as the doorbell and telephone ringing
- quieter sounds that you would struggle to hear without hearing aids.
They will also adjust to different environments, so that sounds are not uncomfortably loud.
Most hearing aids have the option for you to control the volume, which may be helpful in different situations. The controls vary for different hearing aid models, so speak to your audiologist if you’re not sure how to change the volume level.
Your audiologist may set up additional programs on your hearing aids to suit your hearing needs in different situations. For example, some hearing aids have a program that helps you pick up sounds in front of you, rather than at the side or behind. This can help you focus on what you want to listen to in noisy places. If you’re not sure about the different programs your hearing aids have, or how they could help, speak to your audiologist.
Hearing aids cannot cut out background noise completely, so you might still struggle to hear one voice in a noisy place. In these situations, assistive listening devices, learning to lipread and following communication tips might really help.
At first, what you hear might sound different or odd. You might find that everything sounds louder than you expect and your own voice might sound strange. This is because you might not have heard these sounds at their correct levels for a long time, and it will take a little while for your brain to learn that this sound level is normal.
Our step-by-step guide to getting used to hearing aids:
- Slowly build up the time you spend using your hearing aids – start by using them once or twice a day for an hour or two in quiet surroundings.
- Listen to everyday noises around the house – like the kettle boiling. Your brain might need time to relearn the significance of these sounds and to ignore the unimportant ones.
- Use your hearing aids while watching TV – this will help you get used to hearing different sounds.
- Try conversations with 1 person – make sure you’re in a quiet room and the other person sits facing you in good light so it’s easier to lipread them.
- Try group conversations – don’t expect to hear everything that’s said when you’re with more than 1 person, but try to follow the conversation.
- Practise using your hearing aids outside – it’s normal for some sounds to seem very loud until you get used to them.
- Try using your hearing aids in noisy places – these are likely to be the most difficult listening situations.
It can take a month or longer to adjust to hearing aids and get the most out of them, even when using them regularly in different situations. The important thing is not to give up.
If you have any difficulties, tell your audiologist so they can help.
For help with making the most of your hearing aids, read the Which? guide to hearing aids features.
It’s important to make sure you put in your hearing aids correctly:
- Hold the main part of the hearing aid behind your ear and place the soft earpiece over the top of your ear, facing your ear canal.
- Place the earpiece in your ear canal with the ‘tail’ of the tubing facing backwards (if there is a tail – sometimes the open fitting doesn’t have one). Push the earpiece in as far as it will comfortably go.
- If there is a tail, fold it back into the bowl of your ear. Sometimes, when it’s new, the tail doesn’t stay in place, but after a few days it should mould itself to the shape of your ear.
If you have two hearing aids, your audiologist should have marked which one is for which ear. The marker is always red for the right ear and blue for the left. Think ‘R’ for red and ‘R’ for right.
If your hearing aids are not inserted correctly, they will not work as well as they should – you might hear a whistling sound and they might even make your ears sore.
You need to clean and service your hearing aids regularly to keep them working well. They can easily become blocked with ear wax, moisture and other debris, which can reduce the quality of the sound you hear or even stop them working entirely.
Our guide to cleaning open-fit hearing aids:
- Clean the main part of the hearing aid by wiping it carefully with a soft, dry cloth or tissue, or a wetwipe that does not contain chemicals or alcohol. Do not get the hearing aid wet.
- Clean the soft earpiece with a dry cloth.
- Check if there’s any wax or debris blocking the earpiece or tubing. If there is, gently detach the tubing from the main part of the hearing aid and clean it with nylon wire or something similar. Check the instructions that came with your hearing aid if you’re not sure how to remove the tubing.
- Once you’ve cleaned the tubing and earpiece, reattach the tubing and make sure it’s secure.
Speak to your audiologist if you need help with cleaning or servicing your hearing aids.
Hearing aid cleaning tools
Some audiology providers supply or sell hearing aid cleaning tools for a small fee, so ask your audiologist what is available. You can use a:
- soft brush to remove wax from the earpiece – sometimes these also have a magnetic battery removal tool
- wax pick or wire loop, to remove wax from small nooks
- dry cloth to wipe the hearing aid
- multitool, which has a wire loop, magnet and brush.
You can also buy these products online from Connevans in partnership with RNID. Visit the online shop
Most hearing aids have a hearing loop setting (formerly called the ‘T’ setting).
When you switch your hearing aids to the loop setting, you’ll be able to:
- pick up sound from hearing loop systems (loops)
- use assistive listening devices with your hearing aids to help you hear better over background noise.
A hearing loop helps you hear more clearly over background noise because it sends sound from a source – for example, a microphone –
directly to your hearing aids.
Loops are often found in public places such as theatres, cinemas, shops and banks.
You can also get loop systems for your home. Telephones
described as ‘hearing aid compatible’ have a type of built-in loop that
can give you a clearer phone conversation with less background noise.
If you don’t have this setting and would like it, speak to your audiologist.
If you use your hearing aids for most of the day, every day, you’ll need to change your hearing aid batteries about once a week. Many hearing aids will give warning beeps when the battery needs changing.
Our guide to changing your hearing aid battery:
- Open the battery drawer wide but try not to force it.
- Look at the way the battery sits in the drawer before you remove it.
- Take a replacement battery from its packet. It will have a sticky label indicating the positive (+) side of the battery.
- The flat positive side of the battery (+) sits face up in the drawer. Make sure it’s the right way up otherwise it won’t work.
Your audiologist can show you how to change the battery if you haven’t already been shown or need a reminder.
Remember to switch your hearing aids off when you take them out, to save the batteries and to prevent whistling noises. And don’t forget to carry spare batteries when you go out.
If you have NHS hearing aids
You can get free batteries and replacement tubing from:
- your audiology service or ear, nose and throat department – in person or by post
- a local health centre that supplies batteries and tubing
- an RNID local hearing aid support service – check if one runs in your area.
You’ll also need to take your hearing aid repair book or battery card with you. Ask your audiologist about local arrangements.
If you bought your hearing aids privately
Batteries and new tubing may be included in your payment plan. If not, you’ll need to buy them from a pharmacy or your hearing aid provider.
You can also get hearing aid batteries from supermarkets and online.
If you are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus and need free confidential and impartial information and support, contact RNID.
We’re open 8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Get more information by email
At RNID, we offer free information and support to the 12 million people living with hearing loss in the UK.
Sign up for a series of emails from our Information Team to find out more about getting hearing aids, including:
- the types of hearing aids available
- communication tips while you wait for them
- and how you can look after them.