Improvement of hearing in quiet DOES NOT equal an improvement in noise
Improving your hearing in quiet with hearing aids is quite easy as long as your brain is able to interpret amplified speech. Audiology has been able to do that with decent amplification for years, if not decades. The industry is so good at it that research suggests that there is no difference between basic and premium hearing aids when it comes to improving hearing in quiet!
Improving hearing in noise is a completely different story and has been a challenge for many years. Only in recent years have big technological advancements made improvement of hearing in noise a more realistic expectation. Despite dramatic improvements in hearing aid technology, not everyone obtaining the latest hearing aids actually do particularly well with speech in background noise.
There is a BIG problem with hearing aids that work well in quiet, but not in noise. You will likely end up taking the hearing aid out in noisy situations and could end up not using it at all! This potentially means thousands of your hard earned dollars down the drain AND an understandable reluctance to ever try hearing aids again.
There are several potential reasons why your hearing aid might not actually work well for you in noise:
1. You get only one hearing aid when two are recommended
You have two ears for a reason. In combination, they allow you to pick up the direction of noise. One ear also helps fill in the blanks if the other ear mishears. Research shows that using two hearing aids, when required, provides significantly better performance in noise than just using one ear. One hearing aid is really only suitable if the other ear is normal or if the other ear is unaidable. Even then one has solutions such as CROS available to improve hearing from the worst side.
Another problem related to this is someone who is wearing two hearing aids, but of differing makes, models or styles. For the brain to get the very best benefit from hearing aids, the signal from both ears have to match. Otherwise you literally aren’t using your brain to its full effect.
2. You are recommended hearing aids models and brands the clinic has access to rather than what is best suited to you
The reality in the industry is that some providers have very limited brands available to them. Some providers have agreements with certain manufacturers to exclusively sell their products, while other’s are actually owned by hearing aid manufacturers.
It might not sound like a big deal, but is does become your problem when it is time for the clinician to prescribe your ideal hearing solution. A clinician that is bound to only a handful of manufacturers will be forced to recommend the best out of the limited selection available to them. This is not because they themselves are unethical, but they are bound by the company they work for. This may mean that you aren’t necessarily receiving the very best option available from the best that is currently available on the market. There are some key differences between manufacturers, so you might be missing out on “the one” model that might make the biggest difference in your quality of life by settling for second best.
Ironically many of these companies are also some of the most expensive hearing aid retailers around, so you end up paying more than you should for a potentially less than ideal hearing aid!
3. You are recommended hearing aids based on your budget and lifestyle instead of your actual performance in noise.
This could cost you time, money and lots of frustration with ineffective or over-prescribed hearing solutions.
The Hearing Aid Selection process has not really changed much over the last decade despite new tests and technologies allowing for much more accurate recommendations, becoming available.
The traditional process involves a hearing test of your ability to hear in quiet, questioning surrounding your lifestyle and establishment of your hearing goals. Once these have been obtained, you are provided with a number of solutions. You are then asked to choose based on your budget. Frequently the most expensive hearing aids are portrayed as being the best for most situations, while the less pricey options are conveyed as potentially leaving you lacking in the more challenging situations.
The process is based on average performance in noise and is not individualised to your inherent ability to hear in noise. This averaging process works OK, but has a big flaw in that it results in some clients getting poorer outcomes than they could, while others simply overpay for features they don’t need.
When your individual hearing ability in noise is taken into account, a much more accurate recommendation can be made. With your speech in noise test result in hand, the clinician can match your deficiency in noise with a specific hearing aid model’s ability to improve your hearing of speech in noise. This way the clinician can come up with recommendations that will address hearing in quiet AND in noise.
Unfortunately, very few clinics use such a comprehensive selection process.
4. You are not made aware of the limitations that your recommended hearing aids might have for you relative to your unique hearing abilities in noise
Further to point 3 above, your inability to hear in noise might actually be worse that any current hearing aid technology can effectively improve upon. When only the average for performance in noise is relied upon during your recommendation, the traditional hearing aid selection process would not be able to identify this potentially poor outcome. It is based on the assumption that everyone would benefit the most from premium hearing aids.
You have to agree, that it would be very useful knowing about a potential poor outcome BEFORE ordering your hearing aids. When a hearing aid does not perform as expected, it tends to lead to significant disappointment and disillusionment with hearing aids.
By knowing and understanding your unique limitations in noise beforehand, the audiologist can help you gain realistic expectations and give you advice on how to get the best performance out of hearing aids despite your disability. They may also be able to suggest additional tools to get the best outcome despite these limitations.
5. You are working against the hearing aids rather than with them
It is important to understand how hearing aids work, especially in the presence of noise. Slight changes to your behaviour in relation to your hearing, can dramatically improve your hearing in noise with a properly fit hearing aid. If your clinician is experienced in noise reduction technology and are aware of your assessed unique ability to hear in noise, they can help you get the most of your hearing aids in most situations.
Pro Tip: Always make sure that you face the person you want to hear in noise. This is because hearing aids with directional microphones will “zoom” forward when background noise (speech noise) is encountered. Signals next to and behind you will be suppressed. Make sure you are no more than about 1 ½ to 2m away from the person you are listening to.
6. You aren’t making use of all the features of your hearing aids
Many modern digital hearing aids can automatically change their settings based on the environment you find yourself in. For many situations this is ideal, but there might be situations in which the automatic functioning simply gets it wrong. A skilled hearing care professional should be able to create a manual program (within the technical limitations of your hearing aid) that allows you to override the automatic program in these situations. The manual program(s) can be configured, based on your reports, to best use the technology available to you in your hearing aid, to address your hearing needs.
7. Your hearing aids aren’t optimised for hearing in noise
Most hearing aids can be set-up for you very quickly by a provider or in some cases, yourself to a first fit. First fit is a general setting that takes into account your hearing chart and calculates, based on very broad averages, where you are likely to hear OK.
This works for many people and is designed to gain quick user acceptance, but it is NOT optimally utilising the technology to get the very best out of your hearing aids for your unique combination of hearing loss, ear canal size and shape, communication situations etc. Average is basically just not good enough.
Only through verified individualised face-to-face fitting by an experienced hearing care professional can you truly achieve an optimal fitting and consequently optimal outcome from your hearing solution.
8. You aren’t made aware of technologies that can be used with your hearing aids that make them work much better in noise
Only when your hearing care provider is fully aware, through testing, of your unique inability to hear in noise (see point 4), can they recommend assistive technologies which, can be used in conjunction with your hearing aids to get you the best performance in noise. Without this knowledge, the provider might get to this conclusion after much trial and error. This can lead to tremendous frustration for both you and your provider. Many clients simply stop asking their provider for help once they realise, they are getting nowhere despite many visits. Having a complete picture of your hearing available to us at the start saves a lot of these frustrations.
Some clinicians are so used to people complaining about performance that they tend to prescribe a whole slew of accessories off the bat. This is great, except that you might up paying more than you really need to.
9. You prefer invisibility over performance
Small hearing aids are desirable, but they come at a cost. The cost is not really financial like it used to be a decade ago. Today the cost you “pay” is the sacrifice of certain valuable and beneficial features in order to get the aid small enough to be “invisible” in the ear.
One of the biggest sacrifices is the loss of directional microphones. Directional microphones are the single most important feature for improving hearing of speech in noise. Fortunately there are a couple of options available to those who want both discrete solutions AS WELL AS performance in noise. Your provider needs to have available to them a large range of manufacturers and also have a focus on improving your hearing in noise in order to consider these options. Some providers might simply be happy to get the sale and won’t even discuss what you are potentially sacrificing. You can read more about the pros and cons of very small hearing aids here.
10. Your hearing aids aren’t maintained properly
Hearing aids are built to be durable and sturdy, but things can and do go wrong. We frequently find that hearing aid microphones collect dust and dirt over time and speakers block with wax. All these factors could lead to a hearing aid that started off sounding great when you got it, gradually feeling like it just isn’t performing how you remember.
Having the hearing aid tested and checked during an by your hearing professional every 6 months or so is Highly Recommended for long term benefit. This is why we actively recall all our hearing aid clients twice a year for check-ups.
Value Hearing’s difference:
We have been focussed on improving our clients’ hearing not only in quiet, but also in noise since our inception back in 2009. We are specialised in providing quality hearing care to self-funded Australians. As such we only deal with the best quality hearing aids from 8 different brands. Our volumes and specialisation also means that our providers are arguably some of the most experienced when it comes to modern digital hearing aids.
We have developed a specialised assessment process to take into account, not only the standard considerations included elsewhere, BUT ALSO your individual and unique hearing ability in noise with amplification. We then use this information to match your results to a whole range of hearing aids from a number of the very best manufacturers out there to find your ideal solution(s).
This means we can recommend the best hearing aid to suit your current hearing, without over or under prescribing. We use the latest individualised fitting techniques and spend up to two hours during our initial consultation to ensure that you are thoroughly informed about the pros and cons of your ideal solution. This along with our quality service leads to us achieving in excess of 98% customer satisfaction. All of this is backed up by our 60 day money back guarantee.
If you aren’t a client yet, click here to book your Hearing aid Assessment today, to discover YOUR ideal solution for hearing in quiet and in noise.