Sometimes increasing the volume doesn’t necessarily make speech clearer, especially when it amplifies background noise along with the desired sound. This raises the question of whether hearing aids can provide more assistance than just a basic amplifier.
Hearing Aids Are More than Amplification
Hearing aids serve the purpose of amplifying specific frequencies to enhance audibility of soft sounds while incorporating advanced features to reduce background noise, ultimately improving speech comprehension.
Hearing aids are not equal in terms of quality. Even the best hearing aids have their limitations and cannot fully restore hearing to its youthful state. However, let’s explore the capabilities of hearing aids.
Hearing Aids Help Those With Hearing Loss By Providing Amplification
Following World War II, many soldiers returned with significant hearing impairments, necessitating the development of hearing assistance devices. Over time, scientists found ways to measure hearing loss and create devices that amplified sounds to make them audible. Although methods have improved, the fundamental principle remains the same. See the most popular hearing aid.
Audiologists conduct hearing tests and record the results on an audiogram, which displays the individual’s hearing thresholds at different frequencies. These thresholds indicate the minimum level at which a person can hear sounds.
All hearing aids aim to amplify soft sounds to a detectable level. Determining the appropriate amplification is a matter of opinion and debate. Providing too much amplification can result in tininess, hissing, and environmental clicks, causing users to abandon their hearing aids. On the other hand, insufficient volume renders hearing aids ineffective and leaves users feeling dissatisfied, leading them to discard the devices as well. Striking the right balance is based on extensive research and requires audiologists to develop expertise through fitting numerous patients.
Hearing Aids Use Prescriptions Backed by Research
Modern hearing aids are fitted based on prescription formulas, with the most common being NAL-NL2, the second revision of research conducted by the National Acoustic Laboratories in Australia. NAL-NL1, the initial version, focused on setting prescriptions that would yield the best speech recognition scores for individuals with specific hearing loss profiles, rather than considering users’ preferred sound levels. However, NAL-NL1 often resulted in complaints of poor sound quality and unnatural high pitches.
A decade later, NAL-NL2 was released, which reduced high-frequency gain in the prescription formula and increased mid-frequency gain to improve sound quality. These changes improved users’ acceptance of hearing aids, leading to increased usage and overall better outcomes.
Audiologists Verify How Much Sound a Hearing Aid Produces
Fitting hearing aids also involves testing how the devices perform in an individual’s unique ear canal. Each ear canal has a distinct shape and size, causing acoustical waves to behave differently. Audiologists conduct a test called “real ear” or “verification,” wherein a small tube is inserted into the ear canal near the eardrum to measure whether the hearing aid provides the sound level prescribed by the NAL-NL2 formula.
One drawback of self-fit over-the-counter hearing aids is the inability to perform this verification test, which is why it is recommended to have hearing aids fitted by an audiologist. If you need assistance in finding an audiologist, you can chat online with ZipHearing. They can help you locate a nearby clinic and provide price quotes for hearing aids before your visit.
The Largest Complaint Among Those with Sensorineural Hearing Loss Is Background Noise Interference
People with sensorineural hearing loss commonly complain about the interference of background noise. Many individuals express difficulties hearing the person next to them in a restaurant but can hear someone across the room, or being able to hear children playing and crying in church but struggling to hear the pastor. Understanding speech in the presence of background noise is a challenging cognitive task, and it becomes even more difficult with increasing hearing loss.
For individuals with hearing loss, the difficulty lies in separating the desired speech from the surrounding noise. This challenge is not exclusive to those with hearing loss, but it becomes more pronounced as the degree of hearing loss increases.
Hearing Aids Turn an Invisible Disability Into a Visible One
One significant issue for people with hearing loss is that their condition is often invisible. Unlike visible disabilities, others may not immediately realize that someone has a hearing impairment. While some individuals may appreciate anonymity, it can be a disservice in practice.
When people are aware that someone has a hearing loss, they tend to speak more slowly and clearly, making communication easier. Therefore, embracing hearing aids can transform an invisible disability into a visible one, prompting others to adapt their communication style accordingly.
By acknowledging the limitations of hearing aids as mere amplifiers and recognizing the challenges of speech comprehension in background noise, we can appreciate the complexities involved in addressing hearing disabilities. The advancements in prescription formulas and verification tests conducted by audiologists contribute to the optimization of hearing aid functionality. Ultimately, hearing aids serve as valuable tools in improving the quality of life for individuals with hearing loss.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. How do hearing aids work?
Hearing aids work by amplifying specific frequencies to enhance the audibility of soft sounds. They also incorporate advanced features to reduce background noise, making speech understanding easier for individuals with hearing loss.
2. Can hearing aids completely restore my hearing?
While hearing aids can significantly improve hearing ability, they cannot fully restore hearing back to its original state. Their purpose is to enhance sound perception and speech comprehension, but they have their limitations.
3. How are hearing aids fitted?
Hearing aids are fitted by audiologists based on prescription formulas such as NAL-NL2. These formulas determine the appropriate amplification levels for specific hearing loss profiles. Audiologists also conduct verification tests using real ear measurements to ensure that the prescribed sound levels are achieved.