If you’ve just started wearing hearing aids for the first time, or you have changed to a new pair, you may be wondering, “Why does the world sound so noisy?”
The #1 goal of any good hearing aid is audibility: the ability to hear what you can not hear without your hearing aids.
And, while it’s great that you are now able to hear your significant other at the dinner table and hear the television much better, it may not be so great that you can also hear the refrigerator running, the dishes clanging together, the A/C humming, or the traffic noise outside.
These sounds you hear in the environment are normal, but with your new hearing aids on, you are hearing them louder than you have in a long time.
But, don’t fear. Those extra noises can get better.
3 Ways to Improve the Hearing Aid “Noise”
You probably have had hearing loss for several years before actually getting a pair of hearing aids. That means that you have gone all that time not hearing those background sounds in your environment.
So, when you begin wearing hearing aids, those extra noises are going to sound very loud. It’s that contrast between not hearing them and hearing them that makes them sound noticeable and distracting.
It can be compared to your eyes adjusting to the sunlight after sitting in a dark room all day. Imagine if you sat in that dark room for years and then walked out into the sun! Your eyes would probably need several days if not months to fully adjust to the light.
For some people it will take a few weeks for their ears and brain to adjust to the sounds, and for others it may take several months. Your brain is going through a reorganization phase through this time while it learns which sounds are important and which sounds aren’t. As soon as the brain begins to learn which sounds are unimportant, it will start to filter them out and you will no longer feel distracted by them.
How long it takes to adjust will depend on a few factors: your age and how long you have had a hearing loss without wearing hearing aids. Typically, younger people will adjust quicker.
2. Hearing Aid “Noise” Programs
Digital hearing aids have many many adjustments that can be made to alter the sound. It is no longer just a simple volume change, but a multitude of fine-tuning changes that can be made to help make each person’s experience a good one.
Your hearing healthcare professional should be knowledgeable about how to make these fine-tuning adjustments that can help to reduce the amount of background noise that you hear. This is usually done by making changes to the hearing aids noise reduction settings and adjusting the expansion criteria.
However, it is important to keep in mind that while you may not necessarily want to hear all those background sounds, if the hearing aid is adjusted to reduce these background noises too much, you may also be missing some of the softer sounds of speech, such as the “s”, “sh”, “f” and “th” sounds. This can mean that speech is not as intelligible as it should be for you to understand.
It is also possible for your hearing healthcare professional to program the hearing aid with multiple settings so that you can decide when you need the advanced “noise reduction” features to be active and when you need to hear it all.
3. Better Technology
It is important to seek out new hearing aid technology if you continue to struggle with hearing in noise.
Technology is always improving and that includes hearing technology. If your hearing aids are more than 3 years old, it may be time to consider researching or trying new hearing aids. Since hearing in noise is one of the biggest struggles for people with hearing loss, the hearing aid manufacturers are constantly looking at ways to handle these complex noise situations more effectively.
There should be a balance between background noise reduction and speech audibility. If you lose the speech audibility in the process of trying to reduce all the background noises, the hearing aid is not doing for you what it was intended to do…improve your hearing. It is important to work with your Audiologist to find this balance.
Once you have given yourself sufficient time to adjust to the hearing aids and you have worked with your hearing healthcare professional to find the best hearing aid and program for you, you should notice that those noisy sounds will become more manageable.