Hearing Aid Buying Advice
Hearing loss is much more about clarity and loss of the ability to discern speech in background of noise than it is about audibility. What good is it to hear the voice when you cannot understand what it is saying? When people say “I didn’t hear what you said!” they heard you, they did not understand what was said; meaning the clarity was not there. Background noise is often the biggest issue: Some people can discern 50% of speech information (that’s when the brain fills in the rest of what it didn’t understand) when the speech is 3-5 dB louder than the background noise while others need 8-10 or even 15 dB difference between the speech and noise. This requires a hearing test called a SIN test (Speech-in-Noise test). How a person does on the SIN test cannot be predicted from the tone test. Demand this test from your hearing care provider. For more hearing aid buying information visit HearingTracker and be sure to download the Wisconsin Hearing Aid Buying Guide
- If you are hoping for improved hearing in noise you need to know that hearing aids can realistically improve the Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) between 2-5 dB in noise (and remember, some persons may need 8-10 dB or more). This SNR improvement is more apparent when the earmolds in your ears are partially/mostly occluding, when the noise is directly from behind and less than 6 feet away. In places where the noise is coming from all around around and from beyond 6-10′, the SNR improvement will likely be less. In this latter situation your hearing aids cannot truly separate the speech from the background noise (that’s where 2 ears and a brain and training are invaluable.)
- Hearing aids will never work as well as 2 normal ears because hearing aids do not restore hearing to normal. At best they correct between 30-50% of the loss of audibility.
The fact that hearing aids do not restore hearing to normal means that far away sounds will ALWAYS be softer or even inaudible when compared to the hearing ability of typical/normal hearing folks.
The Americans with Disability recognizes hearing loss as a disability – and has determined that public places need to be made accessible (just like they are via wheelchair ramps and braille signs) – there is only one system that “broadcasts” audio (from a pulpit, lectern or stage) wirelessly and directly into hearing aids – and that is a hearing loop. In order to benefit from a loop one needs a telecoil in the hearing aid.
Telecoils or T-coils are recommended by Consumer Reports as one of the most valuable (and usually free of charge) features in hearing aids. Don’t be swayed by a provider who tells you “all you need is Bluetooth technology.” or that telecoils are old technology. Insist your audiologist demonstrates both technologies.
Hearing loops installed in public venues make hearing infinitely easier. Read more on the Hearing Loss Association of America’s website about living with hearing loss, hearing loops and hearing aids. Do join the Get in the Hearing Loop Campaign – a group of passionate hearing loss and hearing loop advocates – email for more information GITHLinfo@hearingloss.org