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Aural rehabilitation: What it is and what to expect

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Discover ways to improve your hearing loss and communication with aural rehabilitation

Over 44 million U.S. adults live with hearing loss. But only 20% have pursued ways to improve living with hearing loss and deafness, such as aural rehabilitation. 

Dr. Jessica Dimmick, audiologist and president and founder of Hearing Doctors of the Heartland, says no amount of hearing loss is okay to live with. When you ignore hearing loss, your communication suffers, which can impact your relationships and mental health. 

“Sadly, we see some people progress in their hearing loss to such a point that they’re withdrawn from people and activities they previously liked,” says Dimmick. “They don’t enjoy time with others, and it’s because they lack confidence in their communication.”

Fortunately, aural rehabilitation can help you regain your confidence and start making connections again.

What is aural rehabilitation, and what are its benefits?

You may be wondering, “How will aural rehab improve my quality of life with hearing loss?” Aural refers to the sense of hearing, meaning aural rehabilitation methods teach you to use technology and strategies to live easier and communicate better with hearing loss. In turn, you’re able to take back your life. 

If you’re ready to address hearing loss, your first step is a needs assessment.

Determining your needs for aural rehab and setting treatment goals

You can visit an audiologist to administer a comprehensive hearing test. Dimmick says this initial consultation should rule out any auditory disorders, medical causes of hearing loss, or other conditions related to the middle ear, such as vertigo or a significant difference in hearing ability between ears, that might need evaluated by an otolaryngologist (or ENT doctor). It’ll also determine if you need hearing aids and allow the audiologist to present options. 

You may still need other forms of aural rehabilitation to achieve your best results. Many forms of rehab are available to you, whether through your audiologist, a speech-language pathologist, or other resources. With the help of the right professional or program, you can achieve your specific goals.

Common types of aural rehabilitation

Prescription hearing aid fitting and orientation 

After you work with your audiologist to find the right hearing aids for your lifestyle and budget, Dimmick says your next step is a fitting process to test the fit, adjust the sound levels, and to learn how to use your instrument(s). Then, she says, you should set a plan for maintaining them to keep you hearing as well as you should with them. Research shows that wearing your hearing aids regularly may increase your longevity.

Listening strategies

No matter your level of hearing loss or whether you do or don’t require hearing devices, you can benefit by using best practices for communicating with hearing loss. These include talking face to face, minimizing background noise, and asking for clarification. 

Counseling and support services

You may feel lost when you learn you have hearing loss or as you manage living with it day to day. Support groups can help you feel less alone. But when the effects of hearing loss impact your mental well-being, you may seek the help of a counselor or therapist. Some providers have experience working with hearing-impaired individuals.

Home modifications

When you modify or design your home to accommodate your hearing loss, you make it safer and more comfortable. Having an open floor plan enables you to see and talk to people more easily, while carpet, versus tile, enables better acoustics. Other features to consider are doorbells, alarm clocks, and carbon monoxide detectors that offer visual alerts, so they don’t go unnoticed.

Auditory training

Hearing loss can impact your cognitive abilities. Auditory training can sharpen your brain, specifically its working memory and processing speed, and help it filter out background noise. This training is especially helpful when you’re new to hearing aids and you need help adjusting to them. Several auditory training programs are available online.


While lipreading may only allow you to decipher about 40% of English words, speechreading delivers more capabilities. This is because it also takes into account the speaker’s facial expressions, hand gestures, and other visual cues. In-person speechreading and lipreading classes may be available near you, and many courses are available online.

Tips for living with hearing loss

Treat your hearing loss early 

This is Dimmick’s top recommendation, knowing the detrimental effects people experience when hearing loss goes untreated. “If you treat your hearing loss earlier, it can improve your outcome with hearing aids,” she explains.

Feel confident about your provider

“Having hearing loss puts you in a vulnerable position,” says Dimmick. “You should feel comfortable talking about difficulties and feel like your provider is compassionate, has the appropriate qualifications for what you need, and spends quality time with you.”

Get another opinion

Dimmick says there is no single approach to treating hearing loss. In the case of hearing aids, for example, she points out that there are multiple manufacturers with multiple styles. “If your hearing aids are not meeting your needs or you’re reluctant to wear them, don’t give up,” she says. “Get another provider’s input for why you’re not successful in your hearing health care.”

Need hearing coverage?

Wellabe has teamed up with Start Hearing® to fill hearing insurance gaps and reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Our partnership can provide full-service, competitive hearing coverage that fits your needs. To learn more or to take a free online hearing test, visit our partner page.

Photo credit: iStock

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