November 5, 2013

Ask the Audiologist – Part 1 of a two-part dicussion of the common misconceptions about hearing aids

By Emily Steffel, Au.D.
Audiology Consultants, P.C.

What are the Common Misconceptions about Hearing Aids?

Listed here are some common misconceptions about hearing aids and the actual truths.

1) Hearing aids will make my hearing “normal” again like glasses make vision 20/20.

Vision issues of near- or far-sightedness are caused by an incorrectly formed lens within the eye. This can be corrected by placing an additional lens in front of the eye (i.e. glasses) so that between the two lenses the eye sees clearly. Vision can usually be corrected to 20/20 or better. Glasses are a mechanical solution to a mechanical problem.

Hearing, unlike vision, is not an issue of a mechanical problem and solution. Hearing aids are a mechanical solution to a neurological problem. The most common hearing difficulties arise from neurological or biological issues, such as the death or damage of the delicate structures of the inner ear or of the nerves that send the signal to the brain. Hearing problems cannot be “corrected” to normal, only significantly reduced in severity. Although not perfect, hearing aids are generally considered the best solution available.

2.) With hearing aids I won’t have to speech-read (lip-read) anymore and noisy situations won’t be a problem for me anymore.

The brain processes speech best when it can use both auditory and visual cues. This is true for all people, whether they have hearing loss or not. Hearing cannot be “corrected” to normal like vision can (see misconception 1). The effects of hearing loss can only be significantly reduced. The use of both auditory and visual stimuli allows your brain the highest chance of fully understanding the conversation. Everyone, even those with normal hearing, uses some form of visual cues and speech reading when conversing, especially in noisy situations. Body language and facial expression are two highly important visual cues that allow us to accurately converse with the world around us. Without them, the meaning of the words we say is lost.

Additionally, locations with a lot of background noise are highly difficult listening situations even for people with superb hearing. Hearing aids today have wonderful features to help reduce the effects of background noise, but noisy places will still be more difficult listening situations than quiet places. If a person with normal hearing has difficulty in noisy situations, so will a person with hearing aids.

(To be continued in the December issue of 50+ Lifestyles)

Filed Under: Health & Wellness