Response to Questions on Using a Hearing Aid in a Noisy Environment
Patients in the process of being fitted for a hearing aid to help them hear faint sounds frequently ask what the hearing aid is going to do with noises which are still excessively loud for them. The response to this common question is quite reassuring.
In a nutshell, contemporary hearing aids that are correctly fitted and adjusted are designed to avoid amplifying sounds which are already very loud. The bold phrase is the critical part, and why you should seek specialized help with choosing and fitting your hearing aids.
The more complex answer has to do with the nature of modern digital hearing aids themselves, and how they work. Digital hearing aids receive sounds through their microphones and turn them into binary information that can then be processed by the hearing aid’s microchip before it is sent to the earphones. Your individual needs can be met with these digital hearing aids by programming and adjusting the maximum volume and the quality of sounds. If you have primarily high-frequency hearing loss, for example, we might program the hearing aid to amplify those sounds while reducing the volume of lower-frequency sounds. This preference can be reversed, of course, if you suffer from primarily low-frequency hearing loss.
Digital hearing aids also have the ability to filter sounds so that you can hear and understand them better. For example, if foreground voices are obscured by background noise, the hearing aid can detect the noise and suppress it or lower its volume, amplifying only the voices. These digital hearing aids can even adjust dynamically to volume fluctuations such as a musician beginning a song very softly and then increasing the volume.Directional microphones assist this process by detecting the direction of sounds. They allow sounds from the direction you are facing while suppressing sounds from the side and behind.
An important point to remember is that hearing aids will not protect your ears from loud sounds like earplugs do. Loud sounds like chainsaws or overly amplified rock concerts, will therefore still be able to cause noise-induced hearing loss. But in most situations your properly fitted and programmed hearing aid should handle most of the range of sounds you’re likely to encounter.