Patients in the process of being fitted for a hearing aid to help them hear faint sounds often ask what the hearing aid is going to do with sounds that are still too loud for them. The response to this logical question is quite reassuring.
The basic answer is that present day hearing aids won’t increase sounds that are already excessively loud and make them even louder, thus potentially damaging the user’s hearing even more, provided that they’re properly fitted and adjusted. The key phrase in bold type is the reason why you need to seek the help of a hearing aid specialist.
A longer answer to the same question requires an explanation of hearing aids themselves, and the way that they work. Digital hearing aids receive sounds through their microphones and turn them into binary information that can then be processed by the hearing aid’s microchip before it is sent to the earphones. Your individual needs can be met with these digital hearing aids by programming and adjusting the maximum volume and the quality of sounds. An example might be that we program your hearing aid to amplify high-frequency sounds and reduce the volume of lower-frequency sounds if you suffer from primarily high-frequency hearing loss. On the other hand, if you suffer from low-frequency hearing loss, the hearing aid settings would be reversed.
In addition, modern digital hearing aids are able to filter the sound to make it more understandable. This can make it easier for you to hear voices in the foreground because the hearing aid can detect and amplify those voices while suppressing the noises in the background. If volume levels change – for example if music starts at a low volume but then becomes too loud – the hearing aid can dynamically compensate for it. Directional microphones also allow the hearing aid wearer to hear faint sounds coming from the direction they are facing, while suppressing noisier sounds coming from behind or to either side.
One thing that hearing aids do not do with regard to loud sounds is protect your ears from them the way that ear plugs would. Loud sounds like chainsaws or overly amplified rock concerts, will therefore still be able to cause noise-induced hearing loss. However, the most common sounds you encounter should be handled by your properly fitted and programmed hearing aids.