People with normal hearing can hear automatically: It doesn’t take much effort and they don’t have to pay close attention. They don’t have to use much brainpower unless they’re in a group or a noisy environment. Most people with hearing loss no longer have automatic hearing. If you have a hearing loss, you have to pay close attention and concentrate, and you have to use some of your brainpower to figure out what you’re hearing. All this takes effort and energy, and doing it all day is exhausting.
That means you may not hear as well if you’re tired, under stress, or thinking about something else. It may be more difficult to hear if you’re having health problems just not feeling well.
Feel Better, Hear Better
The custom-programmed digital hearing aids of today allow you to hear better automatically in all different listening situations, especially in noise. But it’s just as important that custom-programmed digital hearing aids also allow you to hear with less effort and less energy. Hearing aids allow you to relax as you communicate with the people around you.
You’ll also hear better and more easily if those around you get your attention before speaking to you. Then you can be prepared to use some of that brainpower. The next time someone says, “You can hear me when you want to,” you can correct them: “No, you mean that I can hear better when I’m ready to listen.”
Hearing in Noisy Places
The most common complaint of hearing aid users is difficulty hearing in noise. Many noises can interfere with our ability to understand speech. Noise can also be annoying and distracting even when no one is talking.
What’s a common complaint of people with normal hearing? Difficulty hearing in noise. For example, the leading complaint about restaurants is how noisy they can be — and that’s from people with normal hearing.
The Digital Age for Automatic Hearing
Years ago, hearing aids were very limited in their ability to control noise and loud sounds. Fortunately, custom-programmed digital hearing aids and current technology are much more effective at managing noise and loud sounds. Modern hearing aids use noise reduction, directional amplification, and compression to manage noise.
Noise reduction programs use the sound characteristics of noise to reduce the amount of amplification. Some hearing aids can avoid amplifying some noise at all. The chief benefits are both improved comfort and better speech understanding.
Directional amplification uses multiple microphones to separate speech from background noise and provide significantly improved speech understanding. Many hearing aids do this automatically based on where the speech is coming from.
Another process controls the loudness of all sounds. Compression automatically reduces amplification as sound gets louder. Soft sounds can be amplified a lot while loud sounds are amplified less or even not at all. The goal is for you to hear soft sounds while being able to tolerate the loud sounds around you. While these hearing aid technologies provide much improved comfort and better hearing, hearing in noisy places will always be a challenge to someone with hearing loss. Thankfully, our custom-programmed digital hearing aids provide the most help in those difficult conditions.
Can Hearing Aids Reduce Tinnitus?
More than 12 million Americans have severe tinnitus: A ringing, buzzing, or roaring sound heard when no actual sound source is present. Many people seek medical attention and there is a strong relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. About 20% of people with hearing loss complain of tinnitus and about 90% of patients with severe tinnitus have hearing loss. Tinnitus can be disturbing and upsetting. Unfortunately, many people are told “there’s nothing that can help. You’ll just have to learn to live with it.” But that just isn’t true.
Help for Tinnitus
Tinnitus treatments include medical and audiologic evaluation, information, reassurance, counseling, and treatment. Counseling includes recommendations about lifestyle, such as lowering intake of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol; minimizing noise exposure; and getting moderate amounts of exercise. There are many treatments available — many of them controversial and with little or no information about effectiveness.
Custom-Programmed Hearing Aids Can Provide Tinnitus Relief
Many individuals with hearing loss and tinnitus don’t seek help because they mistakenly believe their tinnitus prevents the successful use of hearing aids. The majority of hearing aid users report just the opposite. Several surveys of hearing aid users found that not only do their hearing aids help them hear better, hearing aids also significantly reduce their tinnitus. For more information, visit the American Tinnitus Association.
Dr. T.K. Parthasarathy, Ph.D., FAAA, former Professor of Audiology at SIUE with 33 years of experience in helping patients with hearing loss. He is an ASHA Certified Clinical Audiologist with two offices at Better Hearing Clinic (www.betterhearingclinic.com) in Alton (618.433.9932) and Glen Carbon (618.205.1055). As a part of their Hearing Wellness Program, all patients 50 years and older are eligible for a complimentary hearing consultation.