The most common issue for people with hearing loss is trouble hearing in background noise. Whether it’s struggling to hear in a noisy restaurant, or problems following a conversation with a group of people, background noise creates some challenges.
First, the changes in your hearing system that cause a hearing loss can also lead to other changes in hearing ability, like processing speed and speech discrimination. This means that incoming sounds may take longer for you to process, and may become distorted once they reach the hearing centres in your brain. Often in quiet settings you can fill in the blanks more easily, but background noise makes this much harder. This is why we use specialized testing for speech in background noise to allow us to better understand your hearing health needs.
Another important piece is the technology level of your hearing aids. Technologies range from very basic to very advanced devices. One of the most significant differences between the levels is how much background noise reduction is available within the device, and how automatically these features are activated. For example, walking from a quiet street into a noisy restaurant will trigger a more advanced hearing aid to reduce background noise and try to maximize speech signals.
It is important to remember that even with the best hearing aids, hearing in background noise is not meant to be easy. Even for people with normal hearing, it is difficult to hear in a crowd or to carry on a conversation from the next room. This is why having good communication strategies, like facing the person talking, minimizing background noise, and explaining that you have a hearing loss, is an important part of hearing well.