Posted on Friday, December 04, 2015

Do Hearing Aids Live Up to the Hype?

Man with coconuts

If you have hearing loss or love someone who has hearing loss, you have no doubt heard a lot of things about hearing aid technologies. Apparently hearing aids can turn you into a super ninja with special hearing powers. Okay, that's mostly not true. And because some advertising might seem like hype or pie in the sky promises, let's take a look at what hearing aids can and can't do.

Hearing Aids Can Automatically Hone in On What You Want to Hear
The ability of the hearing aid to automatically focus on a speaker depends on the hearing aid. Your basic hearing aid can pick up someone speaking in front of you, but it will require the user to make adjustments via small buttons or sometimes by using a phone app. Still there are more advanced hearing aids with directional microphones that automatically block noises from behind the speaker and zero in on noises, like someone talking, in front of a person. Generally, people who have directional microphones are happier with their product. Though directional microphones have been refined, different systems do this with different levels of success, so be sure to read reviews. And be aware that there are listening environments that would be challenging for even someone with average hearing. In those extremely challenging situations, your hearing aid might require an accessory. Find out before you buy what the level of accessories available for your hearing aid. Also remember when purchasing your hearing aid that the more programmable the hearing aid, the higher the user satisfaction.

Hearing Aids Can Lower Unwanted Noises
This is actually one of the coolest things about hearing aids. In fact, a recent article by Widex suggested that this is such a wanted feature that people with average hearing might begin to use hearing aids at concerts and other events in order to gain this ability. While that remains to be seen, hearing aids with impulse noise reduction and digital noise reduction do have this ability. Digital hearing aids identify and convert sounds before delivering them to your ears. This process allows digital noise reduction to happen. Digital noise reduction identifies unwanted sounds, like wind or fans, and diminishes them before delivering them to your ears. Likewise, impulse noise reduction identifies startling or impulsive noises--like someone crashing a symbol by your head--and lessens the sound automatically. Again the level at which a hearing aid can do this depends on the hearing aid. For example, if a hearing aid has eight channels it can process more sounds than say just two channel hearing aid.

Hearing Aids Are Smarter Than You
Okay, this is not true. You are smarter than a hearing aid. In fact, hearing aids are only trying to work with your incredible intelligence in the same seamless way your ears did before changes in your hearing occurred. Hearing aids do this in a few ways. With binaural processing, they to talk to each other, work more seamlessly and offer more comprehensive information to your brain to help with spatial awareness. In addition, hearing aids can also log data and learn user preferences. With data logging your hearing aid is storing information about the sound environments you visit. This information can be accessed by your hearing health professional in order to better program the hearing aid. If a hearing aid comes with an ability to learn user preferences that means every time you change settings for a particular environment, the hearing aid learns the setting and pays attention to the environment. If it detects that environment again, it puts the setting automatically where you like it. Sort of like when you program you car's seat to go where you want it and then when you put your keys into the ignition, it automatically adjusts.

Hearing loss is common and experienced by nearly 65 million Americans, but it's also extremely individualized. No two people will experience hearing loss in exactly the same way. That means that the solution for hearing loss needs to be as varied as the individual. How that is accomplished and the degree to which it can be individualized has improved so much in the last few years that numerous studies have shown that hearing aids can and do help. Still one of the true test of wether or not they live up to the hype rests with individual reviews. So make sure to research and to speak with others who have hearing aids. You can check out HearingAid Forums to have access to a lot of people who are really into hearing aids. Also speak with your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

Further Reading

Hearing Aids for People Without Hearing Loss

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