Crowded Rooms, Background Noise and Your Hearing

Patients often ask why hearing in crowds of people is especially tough for them. They report that they don’t seem to have any problem hearing people and understanding what they say when they are speaking to them one-on-one, or even in small groups. But in a crowd, such as a noisy party or in large public gatherings, suddenly it becomes difficult to understand what the person speaking to them is saying, or to distinguish the speaker’s voice from the background sounds. People who complain of this condition often report that they have difficulty distinguishing between consonants such as the letters “S,” “H,” and “F.”

If this situation sounds familiar to you, it may be an indication that you have suffered some degree of high-frequency hearing loss. Human speech, especially the consonants “S,” “H,” and “F,” fall into the range of sounds between 3000 and 8000 Hz, which scientists define as “high-frequency.” In a crowd, what you hear is a mixture of frequencies, with the high frequencies of human speech “competing” with lower-frequency sounds such as music or the noise of people walking or dancing. Those suffering from high-frequency hearing loss tend to perceive the low-frequency sounds (which in this case qualify as noise) as sounding louder than the high-frequency sounds they are trying to focus on – the voices of people speaking to them.

At least 18% of the population suffers from some form of high-frequency hearing loss. The most common cause of this is aging, but in recent years audiologists have found increasing numbers of teenagers and young adults suffering from it, possibly as a result of listening to overly loud music. There are other potential causes, including genetic factors, diabetes, exposure to toxic drugs such as chemotherapy agents, and other diseases.

If you have indeed suffered some high-frequency hearing loss, it can be treated. Modern hearing aids can be tuned to amplify certain frequencies while suppressing others. This makes it possible to adjust a hearing aid specifically for high-frequency hearing loss and better hearing in crowds.

If you have trouble hearing in crowds, your first step should be to make an appointment with one of our specialists, so that we can determine whether you have suffered some form of hearing loss. There are other causes for this, and our specialists can perform tests to determine whether the cause in your case really is hearing loss, and if so, treat it.

Shopping for a Compatible Hearing Aid / Cellular Phone Combination

Hearing aids have not previously always worked effectively with cellular phones, because of electronic interference between the two devices that caused static, whizzing or squealing noises, or lost words. Technology improvements along with new regulations have mostly eliminated this problem. Today cell phone – hearing aid compatibility isn’t the huge problem it used to be. The regulations mandated new labeling requirements and ratings that help you to find a mobile phone that works well with your hearing aid.

To understand how this rating system works, you should first understand the two modes that hearing aids work in – M mode (for microphone) and T mode (for telecoil). In M mode, the hearing aid uses the internal microphone to detect sounds and amplify them. In T mode, the hearing aid uses telecoil technology instead. The hearing aid is able to pick up the electromagnetic signals from inside the phone directly. Roughly 60 percent of all mobile phones sold in the U.S. have a telecoil (T) mode.

The two modes – M and T – are each rated on a scale of 1 to 4 where 1 is the lowest sensitivity and 4 is the highest. To be labeled as hearing aid compatible (HAC) a mobile phone must carry a minimum rating of M3 or T3.

Hearing aids themselves also carry M and T ratings to indicate their sensitivity and ability to block interference in each mode. When shopping for a phone, to determine its compatibility with your hearing aid, simply add its M and T ratings together with those of the phone to create a combined rating. A sum of 6 or more makes a solid pairing. That hearing aid and cell phone combination should work well for you. A combined rating of 5 is thought of as normal, and suitable for most people. If the combined rating is 4, this is thought of as acceptable but not very usable if you make a lot of extended phone calls.

This combined rating system makes it easy to shop for a mobile phone online, because it easily allows you to determine how compatible it will be with your hearing aid. If you are able to shop in a store that allows you to “try before you buy” and actually use the phone you want while wearing your hearing aid, that is of course a better idea.

Avoiding Typical First Time Hearing Aid Purchaser Mistakes

If you’re shopping for your first hearing aid and finding the process confusing, you are not alone. When Consumer Reports did a comparative report on hearing aids, they followed consumers for six months as they tried to figure out which one to buy. What they found was less than satisfying, because they found that two-thirds of the aids were either improperly fitted or that they provided either too much or too little volume. Prices varied widely, and the people selling them did not always provide the kinds of information the shoppers needed. That said, there are tips that can help you when shopping for your first hearing aid, and in this article we’ll cover a few of them. However, we can’t cover all the information you need to make this important decision in this article so please have a read through Your Guide to Buying Hearing Aids – a useful in-depth decision making tool provided by The Better Hearing Institute (BHI). It is an article provided by a non-profit corporation called the Better Hearing Institute (BHI), which provides educational materials about hearing loss and how to correct it. In addition to their suggestions, here are ours:

Seek professional help

Make an appointment with us or with another certified hearing specialist in your area, and read the information in the BHI guidelines before you go. It will help you to ask the right questions and know what the right answers are.

Decide which type of aid is best for you

This is decided while working with the specialists, who will use tests they conduct during Step 1 to determine your type and severity of hearing loss. Settling on the perfect hearing aid for you will take into account the type of hearing loss you are experiencing as well as your budget.

Do your research

After selecting the type of hearing aid that is best for your situation use the Internet to research different models. Look for price comparisons from different vendors, reports on the frequency of problems and repairs, and most important, reviews from users as to the unit’s comfort and reliability.

Locate a reputable vendor

This may be the hearing specialist you went to in Step 1, or someone recommended by them. Whoever you select as the vendor, make sure they have the proper training to make molds of your ears and fit hearing aids properly. While it is possible to buy hearing aids on the Internet, this is not recommended because most models have to be custom-fitted.

Make sure the aids fit and work properly

Your first fitting should include tests by your vendor to ensure comfortable fit and good function of your new hearing aid. The vendor should also provide free follow-up sessions to fine-tune either the fit or the performance of the hearing aids, and should be willing to offer you a “satisfaction guaranteed” warranty when purchasing them.

Good luck, and know that our specialists are here to help you in any way that we can.

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