Bionic Hearing – Not Likely
Yes – hearing aids are electronic devices to assist individuals with hearing loss in hearing better, however, they do not duplicate the natural hearing system, nor do they restore hearing to normal.
Hearing aids are wonderful devices that have incorporated some of the newest technology out there – Bluetooth, wireless functions, FM’s, automaticity, self-learning, and feedback cancellation – just to name a few. This does not equate perfect hearing. I wish it did, and I know my colleagues share this wish. But the reality of the situation is that when there is hearing loss, particularly a permanent type, there is no technology existing today that will “give back” the hearing you once had. The natural hearing mechanism is a complicated one – it involves not only a lot of intricate anatomy and physiology, but human perception as well. Even with the best-of-the-best of what we have available with hearing amplification, the sound will never be perfect. It will be louder in order to give your brain the most access to sound possible, it will be better. But it will not be perfect. Hearing aids are exactly what they’re called – an aid to the hearing you have. This is not to deter you from looking into hearing aids, this is meant to instill some realistic expectations for what these tiny little devices can and cannot do for us.
Here is a brief, non-comprehensive, list of some realistic expectations for hearing aids:
1) In quiet environments, your hearing should improve
2) Your hearing in moderate background noise should improve
3) Your hearing with background noise is not going to be as good as your hearing in a quiet environment
a. Background noise is difficult for everyone!
4) Your hearing with loud background noise is not worse than without your hearing aids
a. Yes, without your hearing aids, the background noise is quieter. But if you think about it, so is the speech you are attempting to hear – so is your hearing really better without them in this scenario?
5) Soft speech should be audible, average speech should be comfortable, and loud speech should not be uncomfortable, but should be loud
a. If a sound or speech is loud, we want you to perceive it as loud – that’s the way it’s intended to be. But, it shouldn’t be so loud that you’re ready to rip your hearing aids out of your ears!
b. On another note, if an environment or sound is too loud for ANYONE (race car track, monster truck event, emergency siren, etc), then it will likely be too loud for you with your hearing aids too.
c. The hearing aids are not meant to equalize all incoming sounds. If they did, you would have no perception of how loud something really is.
6) Your hearing aids do not eliminate background noise
a. The hearing aids will work in your favor, doing the best they can to turn down some of the background noise while keeping speech audible. But background noise is a part of the environment in which we live. We cannot make it disappear. If someone figures out how to do that, please let me know – my neighbors barking dog never stops!
7) Your voice should become acceptable to you
a. It will sound funny at first – you’re hearing your own voice differently. But after you get used to the hearing aids, it should sound more acceptable.
8) There should not be feedback when the hearing aids are properly seated in your ears
a. In certain situations, feedback is normal, it’s the nature of acoustics. Your audiologist should go over when this is to be expected, and when it’s not.
9) Your hearing aids require time to get use to
a. As stated above, it’s a complicated process. Hearing aids is not a one-stop-shop. But we will work with you to get you to where you need to be.
10) You may be aware of soft sounds that were previously not audible
a. You should be hearing these sounds!
b. Examples: footsteps, refrigerator, paper rustling, clothes moving, noise, etc.
I hope that this list helps to ease the process of learning about hearing aids. They will never be perfect. But, they are wonderful, tiny, digital technology that is working it’s hardest to improve your quality of life by giving you the most access to sound possible!&nnbsp; Enjoy the sounds in your environment!
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
– Thomas Jefferson
“If you still can’t hear your friend speak from across the table at the restaurant on family night, be encouraged – a normal hearing person will have trouble under these circumstances too.” – Thomas Jones