A frequent question asked by patients being fit with hearing aids is whether the hearing aids will make the loud noises too loud. Fortunately there is a comforting answer to this question.
The simple answer is that present day hearing aids will NOT increase sounds which are already excessively loud, thus possibly harming the user’s hearing even more, as long as they’re correctly fitted and adjusted. The key phrase in bold type is the reason why you should seek the help of an audiologist.
The more complex answer has to do with the nature of modern digital hearing aids themselves, and how they work. Digital hearing aids work by transforming sounds into data. The data which encodes the sounds is then processed in the hearing aid’s microchip before the amplified sound is delivered to your ears. Your individual needs can be achieved with these digital hearing aids by programming and adjusting the maximum volume and the quality of sounds. If you have primarily high-frequency hearing loss, for example, we might program the hearing aid to amplify those sounds while reducing the volume of lower-frequency sounds. 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 with the goal of producing a clearer signal. This may 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. The hearing aids can also be adjusted to dynamically compensate for differences in volume; if the speaker or music you are listening to starts softly but then increases and becomes too loud, the hearing aid can adjust for this. This process is aided by directional microphones that can detect where sounds are coming from and thus reduce the volume of background noise coming from behind or to the sides while increasing the volume of sounds coming from in front of you.
An important point to remember is that hearing aids will not protect your ears from loud sounds like earplugs do. Loud sounds like chainsaws or overly amplified rock concerts, will therefore still be able to cause noise-induced hearing loss. Properly fitted and programmed, your hearing aid should not only provide you with improved hearing but will also not put you at risk for greater hearing loss.