Hearing aids are a boon to persons experiencing hearing loss. They enable them to communicate with friends and family, and participate in the same activities they have long enjoyed. Most people require a little time to adapt to wearing hearing aids, and many report frustration with three common complaints: background noise, feedback and occlusion. There are strategies for dealing with all three issues.
If background noise is causing interference, there are basic communication strategies you can employ to overcome this. If dining in a restaurant, request a table that isn’t located near the kitchen, or choose an eatery that has good acoustics. In your home, carpeting on the floors helps absorb sounds. Technology tip: two microphones work better than one. Adaptive Dual Microphone technology recognizes the origin of the background noise and automatically reduces it while focusing on sounds you want to hear.
If your hearing aids squeal when placed near other electronic devices or removed from the ear, you are experiencing feedback – the result of amplified sound leaking from the ear canal into the microphone. This may be the result of a crack in the hearing aid venting, a loose fit or an accumulation of earwax in your ear canal. Do not attempt to fix this yourself by tapping your hearing aids on a hard surface – this is likely to cause damage. Schedule an appointment with your audiologist to see if your hearing aids need to be repaired or refitted, or if earwax needs to be removed. Technology tip: many of today’s hearing aids feature “feedback management” systems that identify feedback before it occurs and cancel it automatically.
Many new users feel their voice sounds strange when talking or chewing. This hollow “talking in a barrel” feeling is called occlusion, and occurs when the earmold completely fills the ear canal. Vibrations made by the sound waves of your voice are trapped, making it appear louder. In most cases, creating a vent through the hearing aid unblocks the ear and allows sound vibrations to escape. Some hearing aids come with a pressure relief vent to equalize the air pressure in the ears, but these are often too small to reduce the occlusion effect. In these cases, it may be necessary to have your audiologist create a larger passage in the hearing aid. Technology tip: Open Fit technology can eliminate occlusion. This type of hearing aid keeps the ear canal open by using a small tube with a speaker instead of a traditional earmold.