07 Jul Aren’t all hearing aids the same?
No. Far from it. There are devices available on the market whose main function is to amplify sound. You often see these devices marketed widely on-line, through big box stores, or at considerable discounts or offered as a “starter” hearing device for minimal or low cost. These devices are often stripped of much of the technology that improves word recognition and speech understanding, and ultimately will not meet the needs of the user. Sure, the device will make sounds louder, but it won’t be much help in actually improving your ability to hear conversations.
Simply amplifying sound isn’t enough
A hearing device, as stated amplifies sound, that is the main function of a device, however that is only a small part of the whole fitting process. Once a hearing loss is diagnosed and a hearing aid is fit to the person’s hearing thresholds, the Audiologist now needs to program the device at a perscription setting aimed to improve speech intelligibility. When having your hearing tested, make sure that you are being tested for your word recognition, as this is a vital part of the hearing test and recommendation to determine if amplification will be of benefit.
It is not always about turning the volume on the aid up, this will not usually improve your ability to understand speech, louder isn’t always better, if a person has poor word recognition scores, they will be challenged understanding all sound no matter what volume the device is set at. Our actual ear only takes sound in, and when an aid is worn, the ear is still doing its job of taking the sound in, this time through the hearing aid, however, that sound is then processed through the auditory nerve and interpreted by our brain. If there is damage to the auditory nerve, as evidenced by poor word recognition scores, or damage to the auditory cortex in the brain, no matter how loud the sound is, the brain cannot process it, and therefore people cannot understand it.
Recipe for success
Today’s best devices are well equipped to handle multiple programs and have settings that can improve a person’s ability to understand the sound they are listening to; whether it be speech, music or TV. When selecting a device make sure to look for those that are packed with technology; technology that improves speech intelligibilty, aids in sound localization and filters out unwanted background noise.
If you have a hearing loss, of course, we need to make the sounds louder, which a hearing device will do, but the type of hearing device, the skills of the person fitting the device and your own efforts in adjusting to wearing amplification are all part of the success.
Our thanks go out to Jean-Anne Ernst from Dartmouth, NS for this question. If you have a question, we’d love to HEAR it! Simply drop us a line – firstname.lastname@example.org