How to use headphones with hearing aids
Thanks to recent advancements in hearing device technology, millions of people with hearing loss are able to hear their favorite sounds and enjoy conversing with their favorite people. One perk this new technology affords users is compatibility with other personal electronic devices, such as smartphones and televisions. Sometimes, as in the case of headphones and earbuds, finding the right listening combination can be a bit tricky.
If you can, get Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids
If your hearing aids are Bluetooth-enabled, then you can stream sound directly to your hearing aids! No need to wear headphones on top of your ears, or take out your hearing aids out to wear earbuds. You can stream sound from your phone, laptop, TV or other device. This is a very handy way to listen to music or podcasts. Noise-cancelling headphones also may be worn over your hearing aids, so you don’t need to turn the music as high. Also, keep in mind using Bluetooth a lot may drain your batteries faster than usual.
If your hearing aids don't have Bluetooth
With all of the different headphones on the market today, which ones work best with hearing aids? That all depends upon what type of hearing aids you wear. Here are a few things to consider, and keep in mind your hearing care specialist can provide guidance, as well. We especially recommend seeking professional help if you need to wear a headset for work.
A 'trial-and-error process'
First and foremost, we can't stress enough that this may take a little bit of legwork on your part to find the right fit. If you're ordering headphones for home delivery, read the return policy closely. Better yet, go to a store and try on several headphones, if you can.
"It’s a long trial-and-error process and I definitely recommend trying on some headphones whenever you see them at a store to get a good feel for how it’ll work with your specific hearing aids," explained one Reddit commenter on this post about hearing aids and headphones.
In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids
Finding good fitting headphones when you wear devices that fit inside the ear canal is a lot less problematic than it is with other models.
Since all components of the above devices fit completely inside the ear canal, they are usually compatible with on-ear or over-the-ear headphones. Those who wear IIC hearing aids may even be able to use earbuds.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids
Those who wear BTE or receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) devices may find over-the-ear headphones the best option. Or, as we mention above, turn on your Bluetooth streamingg so you can ditch the headphones altogether.
When using headphones with these hearing devices, choose a model which fits completely over the hearing aids’ microphone, which is located outside the ear canal and behind the ear. If it doesn’t fit completely over, the hearing aid will pick up external sound instead of what is coming from the headphone. You may have to try a few models to find the right fit. The key is to make sure the headphone speakers are located far enough away from the hearing aid microphones to prevent problems with audio feedback.
Bone-conduction headphones don't actually rest on the ear, but directly in front. People who wear in-the-ear hearing aids may especially like this option, as they don't block incoming sound, which is a nice safety feature.
"While conventional earbuds and headphones may interfere with or jostle hearing aids, bone conduction headphones bypass this," explains Lily Katz of website SoundGuys. However, if you have behind-the-ear headphones, you may still experience some discomfort as the headset may rub against the hearing aids (look for a pair of returnable hearing aids so you can test this out!).
Headphones for single-sided deafness
When you have hearing loss in one ear, you lose out on the sensation of "surround sound" otherwise known as listening in stereo. Bone-conduction headphones can be a good option to get around this. Also, this eBay seller makes these "Two ears in one" stereo headphones that may be helpful for people with single-sided deafness.
What if you don't want to wear hearing aids?
Want to ditch the hearing aids altogether while you wear headphones? That's an option, too. Depending on how severe your hearing loss is, you may want to get special headphones known as amplified headphones, which can deliver signals more loudly than standard headphones. A separate headphone “equalizer” allows you to boost low, mid and high frequencies to suit yourself and your unique pattern of hearing loss.
Ask your hearing healthcare professional
If you’re still having trouble finding headphones which work with your hearing aids, make sure you’re using the hearing aid program for the listening environment you're in. If you’re in doubt about which program to use—or how to switch between programs on your hearing devices—ask your hearing healthcare professional for assistance.
Ask for a "music" setting
A program which emphasizes speech may not be the best one to use when you’re listening to music or audiobooks, learn more about optimizing your hearing aids for music. (Fun fact: Audiobooks can be a great way to boost your hearing skills.)
You can still damage your hearing
To prevent additional noise-induced hearing loss, make sure you follow the 80-90 rule when using headphones or earbuds, regardless of whether or not you wear hearing aids: Listen at 80 percent or less of your device’s volume for no more than 90 minutes a day.
More: How to prevent hearing loss from headphones or earbuds
As always, if you find you’re not hearing your best, schedule an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation.