Hearing aids can work wonders for people with hearing loss. It is true that hearing aids do not “correct” or “fix” hearing loss. They do, however, make sounds that were difficult to hear much easier to pick up. This can include soft and quiet sounds, of course, as well as lower frequency sounds more generally.
Despite the wonderful ways that hearing aids can help people to connect to their surroundings, they can still pose problems for users. One of the biggest difficulties that hearing aid technologies face is helping people to distinguish speech in complex sound environments. So, while a hearing aid can help someone listen to and understand the speech of a single person standing in front of them in a quiet setting, things can be quite different when it comes to having conversations in public places such as restaurants.
In environments such as this where there are a lot of sounds—the ambient sound of many conversations happening at once, the clinking of silverware on dishware, music playing over the restaurant speakers, and more—people with hearing aids can have troubles understanding the speech of those they are conversing with. They may certainly be able to hear what their companions are saying, but they may not be able to distinguish the unique words and sentences being posed.
To this end, a common refrain from people with hearing loss in complex sound environments might be, “I can hear, but it is difficult to understand what is specifically being said.” Fortunately, there is new technology to assist people with speech understanding.
Making Sense of Sound
Being able to distinguish amongst sounds in complex environments is important for many reasons. Surely people want to be able to stage conversations with their friends and loved ones. But there can also be more severe and important reasons why it is important to be able to create hierarchies of sounds around you. Namely, when those experiencing hearing loss are unable to distinguish background noises, they can be significantly less attuned to their surroundings, making it especially difficult for people to interpret when there are changes in their environment. Noise changes are important clues for people that there may be something dangerous in the midst: tires squealing, distant sirens, dishes breaking, someone shouting, etc.
Thankfully, new developments in hearing aid technologies have made it significantly easier to distinguish speech and other distinct sounds. There are a few things that you can do to adapt your current hearing aid usages to maximize your abilities to understand speech in complex environments, and there are different, new hearing aids that you can investigate purchasing as well.
Take a Hearing Test
The first thing to do is to make an appointment with us at Active Hearing and Audiology for a hearing test. Even if you are a longtime hearing aid user, it is important and useful to have your hearing tested for any changes in ability. Of course, if you are a first-time hearing aid user, our team will be able to safely and correctly test your hearing and provide guidance on hearing assistance technologies that will be the best for your needs.
Surely one of the easiest and quickest methods of understanding speech while using a hearing aid is to simply wear two hearing aids. Doing so will help your brain to process sounds that are coming from multiple directions and multiple angles. It will be easier for your brain to distinguish and process sounds when hearing aids are in place to capture front and background noises on each side of your body.
Other hearing aid technologies are improving people’s abilities to distinguish speech, especially in complex hearing environments. One of the most important developments is digital signal processing (DSP), which adapts to user’s individual and situational hearing needs. These DSP devices include directional microphones that allow you to capture and process sounds that are coming from the front and back of your body. These devices also frequently use adaptive feedback technologies, where the device itself is capable of managing any annoying high-pitched whistles that traditional hearing aids can be susceptible to. Perhaps most importantly, many hearing aid devices that use DSP technologies can come with noise reduction capabilities.
Visit Us at Active Hearing & Audiology
There have been many advances in hearing aid technologies that allow people to hear crisply, clearly, and to distinguish amongst many different kinds of sounds. Making an appointment with us at Active Hearing and Audiology means you’ll meet with a hearing professional who can test and fit you for the best hearing aid for your needs. This is the first step in creating a more holistic hearing environment for yourself.