Fine tune your hearing aids for noisy environments

Contributed by | Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

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Filters are one of life’s necessities. Your furnace needs one to keep air and duct work clean. Your car uses an oil filter to keep solid deposits from reaching critical engine parts. And, if you’re lucky, your brain learns how to filter what you say long before the words come tumbling out of your mouth.

As it turns out, your ears could use a filter sometimes, too, especially if you have hearing loss. When your hearing is normal, your brain tunes out distractions and background noises. Even so, we find ourselves turning down the radio or closing the office door when we need to concentrate on a conversation or project at work. But what about your ears with hearing aids? How do you filter out background noise when you’re using digital amplification? 

hearing aids and noise
Background noise can be distracting, especially
for individuals who wear hearing aids. Filtering
out that noise is now possible thanks to new
technology that helps individuals focus on the 
sound right in front of them. 

Hearing aid technology

New hearing aid users are often over whelmed by the sudden ability to hear every day noises. Hearing health experts recommend several tips for filtering background noise:

  • Wear two hearing aids instead of one. When your ears hear sound from both sides, you are better able to locate where sounds are coming from and better understand speech.
  • Invest in hearing aids with digital signal processing (DSP). These hearing devices are able to differentiate between speech and noise, lowering the volume when they identify noise. Many people who wear DSP technology report that background noise seems to fade and the quality of speech is better, though not perfect.
  • Ask for hearing aids with directional microphones. With this option, the user can switch the hearing aid from a setting that picks up sound from all directions – front, back and sides – to one that picks up sounds primarily coming from the front of the hearing aid user. This allows the user to focus on the sounds in front of him, without being distracted as much by background noise.
  • Consider using FM technology. This technology involves two components, a transmitter that picks up a speaker’s voice and the receiver which delivers the sound to the listener’s ear. FM technology is helpful regardless of whether or not you wear hearing aids. Individuals who use FM technology find speech significantly easier to understand, especially in noisy environments.
  • Ask your hearing healthcare professional about auditory training. These activities, some which you can practice at home with your personal computer, can help you enhance speech perception.

Other helpful strategies

Even though hearing aid technology has come a long way in the past decade, it’s still not as sophisticated as your body’s natural hearing mechanism. That means your hearing aids aren’t able to filter out background noise as well as you might like. In fact, that’s one of the most common complaints new hearing aid users register.

While there’s no doubt hearing aids can make a world of difference in your quality of life, you can increase their effectiveness by utilizing these additional tips in social situations:

  1. Plan ahead by choosing a quieter restaurant. Carpet, chairs that roll, plants and other sound-absorbent material will make it easier to hear the conversation.
  2. Pick a table in the least noisy part of the restaurant – away from the kitchen, bar or wait service stations.
  3. Ask to be seated in a well-lit area so you can see faces during the conversation.
  4. Let the wait staff know you have hearing loss and it’s easier for you to understand what is being said when they speak slower, a bit louder and face you directly.
  5. Relax. Even if you don’t catch every word, you can still enjoy the good food and great company.

Whether you're a new hearing aid user or are a veteran of the technology, remember to see your hearing healthcare professional for a hearing aid checkup on a regular basis -- as soon as possible if you are bothered by the amount of background noise you're hearing. Above all, remember — even people with normal hearing experience greater difficulty in noisy listening environments. So, have realistic expectations, invest in good technology and be strategic in social situations to keep background noise where it belongs. 

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