July 2, 2014

Ask the Audiologist

By Margaret Christiansen, Au.D.
Audiology Consultants, P.C.

I’m careful to protect my hearing when around loud sounds. Do I have to worry about my hearing aid being too loud and causing hearing loss?

That is a great question, and I’m glad to hear you are thinking about your hearing health! You are correct that loud sounds can be damaging to our ears, and it is important to be vigilant with the use of hearing protection when around loud sounds. A good rule of thumb is if you have to raise your voice to be heard above noise, you should have hearing protection in your ears. It is important to understand that the use of hearing aids does not negate this need for hearing protection when around loud sounds. Hearing aids are not designed to protect your ears from hazardous noise. Hearing aids need to be removed and hearing protection inserted when around noise, just as you would if you don’t have hearing aids.

A hearing aid’s purpose is to amplify sounds that you may be otherwise missing due to your hearing loss. Your hearing aid has been programmed for your individual hearing loss and is designed to give you the best amount of sound to help you hear and understand sounds around you. Properly set hearing aids will not cause damage to your ears.

We perform special testing at the time a hearing aid is fit, as well as periodically over the course of hearing aid use. This testing is able to measure what sounds the hearing aid is producing at different pitches and for different levels of speech. This helps to ensure your hearing aid is accurately and safely set for your needs.

Today’s hearing aids are very intelligent and are able to automatically adjust the volume they produce based on the level of sound they hear. If someone is speaking very quietly, the hearing aid knows it has to work hard to help you hear. If someone starts shouting at you, the hearing aid knows it does not need to amplify nearly as much. The goal is that soft sounds still sound soft and loud sounds still sound loud while at the same time ensuring sounds never exceed your individual comfort level.

It is common for a new hearing aid user to be surprised by how loud a hearing aid sounds. We typically lose our hearing very gradually over a long period of time. We get used to how soft things are around us. It can be surprising to get all of those sounds back when you start to wear a hearing aid! With time and consistent hearing aid use, our brain adapts to those new sounds things start to sound more normal and natural.

If you are uncomfortable with how your hearing aid sounds, having trouble adjusting to what you hear or have further questions, schedule an appointment with your audiologist for further guidance or fine tuning.

Filed Under: Health & Wellness