July 1, 2013

Ask the Audiologist

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

Why do many hearing aids have volume controls when they are supposed to be automatic?

Many hearing aids do have automatic volume controls that work to adjust sounds to audible levels while maintaining comfort. The hearing aids take into account an individual’s hearing loss and amplify sounds appropriately. While this automatic technology is very successful and greatly reduces the need for a manual volume control, the technology inside the hearing aid can’t account for individual preferences or the multitude of situations one may encounter. Because of this, some individuals prefer to have a manual volume control on their hearing aid. This does not change the automatic capabilities of the hearing aid, but allows the individual to override the automatic volume control when desired. This can be very helpful in some situations. For example, if you are at a restaurant having dinner with a loved one and can’t hear their voice, it would be beneficial to have the option to turn up the volume on your hearing aids.

In addition, many of the newer hearing aids have self-learning features that allow the hearing aid to learn your sound preferences and incorporate these preferences into future situations. The hearing aids are able to learn your sound preferences by tracking the volume adjustments you make in specific situations. These adjustments are made using a manual volume control on your hearing aid or via remote control.

While having a manual volume control has its advantages, it is certainly not for everyone. Patients choose styles that do not have volume controls for varying reasons. Some individuals prefer the simplicity of not having any manual control of their hearing aids and like the idea of their hearing aids doing all the “work.” Others are attracted to the smaller hearing aid styles that can be used when the manual volume control is eliminated.

Hearing aids come in varying levels of technology. Certain technologies are better equipped to make automatic volume adjustments than others. It is a personal preference and regardless of your decision for a manual volume control, options such as a remote control may exist. Your audiologist will be able to help guide you in this decision process, so you get the hearing aids and features that best fit your needs.