Hearing better in Noise With Hearing Loss
March 03, 2019
Submitted by Bob West, M.S., HAS, Director of Business Development, Audibel Hearing Healthcare
Forty years ago, it seemed quite futuristic that we would be able to focus hearing technology on something that we specifically wanted to hear. That type of “superhuman” ability was only available in movies and television. In today’s world, however, it has become quite common and constantly evolving. Today’s hearing technologies have made amazing strides in working with natural hearing to compensate for challenging, noisy environments.
For decades, hearing science has quietly compiled and improved technologies as diverse as those used in the military, in music, and computers. All of these fields have gone into designing hearing instruments that align and work with your natural hearing. That’s not to say you can hear a cat meowing from a tree three blocks away, but today’s hearing instruments can achieve some impressive feats:
- Focus in on the sounds you want to hear while diminishing those you don’t want to hear
- Help you hold conversations with family members and friends while at a restaurant, on a hiking trail, or in a sailboat
- Let you use cell phone apps to adjust your hearing aids to specifically align with your natural hearing and in specific situations
- Maintain an active social lifestyle without fear of feeling left out or having to ask for things to be repeated
- Keep whole hearing health, which stimulates parts of our brain functions at the highest levels
However, even with all of these advancements in technology, it’s still not perfect. There are some things the user can do to make it better.
Two hearing aids better than one?
A number of advantages of wearing two hearing aids include better ability to hear sound from either side, increased loudness of sound when two ears are listening, and ability to locate where sounds are occurring. Using two hearing aids will improve speech understanding in noise for most people, at least in normal, everyday communication situations. Some listeners will actually do better with just one hearing aid in either the right ear or the left, but the bulk of scientific evidence to date indicates better and easier speech perception in typical noisy listening situations for the wearer with two hearing aids.
Hearing aids with directional microphones
Many hearing aids have a directional microphone option. With this option, the hearing aid can be switched from an omnidirectional setting (one that picks up sound from all directions, front, back, and sides) to a directional setting that picks up primarily sounds coming from the front of the hearing aid user. The hearing aid circuitry in newer aids switches from omnidirectional to directional automatically.
In most listening situations, the sound source that the hearing aid user wants to hear is in front of the listener. Depending on lifestyle, as much as two-thirds of listening will be in noise. Thus, having a hearing aid that can focus primarily on sound coming from the front will be an advantage for the listener. Directional technology does not completely remove the noise coming from the sides or back, but it does reduce it by as much as three to four decibels, making it much easier to understand the sound coming from the front.
You can also temper the effects of challenging listening conditions by using effective communication strategies. Think about the last time you went to a restaurant and found yourself bombarded by noise. Now, think about the strategies you could use to minimize the difficulties you have the next time you dine out. A few suggestions such as the following may be helpful:
- Plan ahead by picking a quieter restaurant. Try to find carpeted restaurants that have chairs with rollers on the legs, plants, and sound-absorbent materials on the tables and walls.
- Make reservations ahead of time and ask for accommodations.
- Pick the best day and time (not Friday nights) to dine out.
- Tell your server that you have a hearing loss and it will help if they slow down a bit, speak a bit louder, and face you directly.
- Relax, breathe, and enjoy the fine food and the company, even if you don’t catch every word.
In some listening situations it may be impossible to carry on a relaxed conversation such as trying to hear someone when standing next to a noisy jack hammer; however, interventions can ease some or most of the distressful listening conditions experienced by people with hearing loss. Whatever your situation may be, there are ways to help you follow along with others in noisy environments.
Audibel Hearing Healthcare has been serving the Pine Belt with a high level of care for over 50 years. With 11 offices throughout South Mississippi and Alabama, Audibel delivers technology research, quality instruments, and customer service in the hearing industry while offering quality, American-made hearing aids. They also offer custom swim plugs, ear plugs, musicians in-ear monitors, hunter’s ears, and many other hearing protection products and services. Call 601-329-2946 or toll free at 1-888-354-2143, or visit them at www.audibelms.com for your free hearing exam and start experiencing better hearing, better life today!
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