Lots of people put their faith in a hearing aid and then quit wearing it in disgust. Experts stress that it takes time to adjust to an altered way of hearing. These suggestions should help hasten the process:
-- Ask a hard-to-follow speaker to talk more slowly and if possible at a lower pitch. Hearing loss usually is most pronounced at higher frequencies--that's why a woman's speech generally is more difficult to understand than a man's.
-- Many hearing-impaired people unconsciously try to improve their comprehension by lip-reading. Good lighting and a full-face view of the speaker make that easier; backlighting and shadows pose a challenge.
-- Plan for social situations. If dining out with a group, for instance, try to be seated against a wall or high partition to reduce sound from the back.
-- Get checked regularly for wax buildup, especially if your hearing aid is the kind worn entirely in the ear. Otherwise, you'll get a decline in volume and annoying noises when you chew and move your jaw.
-- If in the market for a cellphone, buy one certified by the Federal Communications Commission for use with hearing aids. Those that aren't may produce buzzing and feedback.
This story appears in the May 22, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.