A Signia audiologist provides tips to a new college student so they can prepare for life at school with their hearing aids.

Ask the Audiologist: I’m Heading to College with Hearing Aids – How Should I Prepare?

Attending college will be a vastly different experience than going to high school. If you wear hearing aids, the new setting will likely also present a new set of challenges when it comes to your hearing needs. Here are some tips to help you prepare.

It is amazing that an entire summer has sailed by and it is already time to go back to school again! For you, the start of this school year is even more exciting than for others because you are heading off to college. Of course attending college or university will be a vastly different experience than going to high school. If you wear hearing aids, the new setting will likely also present a new set of challenges when it comes to your hearing needs. Here are some tips to help you prepare.

Learning in a larger classroom

Chances are you will be spending some time in large lecture halls and auditoriums instead of the traditional classrooms from your high school days. The larger spaces may pose challenges if you are seated far away from the lectern. Even the best hearing aids alone cannot guarantee speech clarity if the speaker is far away. Showing up earlier to class and grabbing a seat at the front will minimize such potential difficulties.

Alternative sound transmission strategies can help. Large auditoriums are often equipped with loop systems. If your hearing aids are equipped with a telecoil (t-coil), this transmission system will deliver the professor’s voice directly into your hearing aids. Check with the school in advance to find out if your classroom is equipped. Of course if you own an FM system, or a wireless remote microphone that works with your hearing aid streamer, most professors will surely be happy to accommodate. Again, notifying the professor beforehand of your request is always a good idea.

The latest direct-to-iPhone® hearing aids also have the capability of using the iPhone as a remote microphone. Simply place the phone on your desk with the microphone towards the professor, and their voice will be streamed via Bluetooth® directly into the hearing aids.  Note that this strategy works best if you and your phone can get as close to the front of the classroom as possible.

Ensure hearing care is available

If you are attending college out of town, do you know where to go if your hearing aids break down in the middle of the semester? Unless the idea of rushing to your hearing care professional back home in the middle of exam week sounds fun, make plans to scout out another professional closer to your school. Your current hearing care provider might be able to make recommendations for someone who is experienced with the make and model of your hearing aids. Alternatively, use our Hearing Care Professional Locator.

Signia’s telehealth offering, TeleCare™,  is an even better solution. With the free myHearing™ App installed on your iOS® or Android™ smartphone, you can contact your hearing care professional back home via text or voice calls when problems arise. Not only will they be able to address your concerns remotely when necessary, they can even send setting adjustments directly to your hearing aids remotely via the app. Furthermore, the app also contains a troubleshooting guide that may help you address minor problems on your own.  Ask your hearing care provider if they offer our unique TeleCare service.

Do you have everything?

When was the last time you had your hearing and hearing aids checked?  If it has been more than a year, this is a good time to visit your hearing care professional before you go. They will make sure your hearing aids continue to provide the amplification you need and that they are working well. While you are there, ask for spare hearing aid cleaning tools and supplies.

It is more exciting to shop for dorm furniture and pick out your favorite clothes to bring to college, but also make sure you have everything you need to operate and care for your hearing aids. If your hearing aids are not rechargeable and you are not sure where you can easily buy hearing aid batteries in your new town, better bring extra packs. Also make sure any other hearing aid accessories that you use are in working order. The last thing you want is to show up for the first day of class and find out that your audio streamer does not work anymore.

Prepare to advocate for yourself

Part of the responsibility of becoming an independent adult means that you must advocate for yourself. Perhaps your parents have taken the lead in ensuring that your hearing and learning needs were met in the past, but now you are entirely responsible for your own hearing and learning success. Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are there to ensure individuals like you have equal access to higher education, but it is your responsibility to speak up when you require accommodation or communication support.

Get to know support organizations, such as the Hearing Loss Association of America. These can be invaluable resources for finding out how accessible your school is, learning about your rights and the questions to ask, the different technologies available that can help you navigate college life, and self-advocacy skills. They may even introduce you to mentors who have gone through similar situations.

College can be one of the most exhilarating and pivotal chapters in your life. It is also one of the first opportunities for you to making your own way in the world. With a little prep work, forethought, and courage, you can ensure that it remains a positive and confidence-building experience.