Trying to stay engaged in conversation in a crowded space can be difficult, as speech can sound soft and muffled. It can be even more challenging for people who have trouble hearing due to the background noise.
Many hearing aids now are designed with this in mind, reducing the level of background noise experienced by the user. Due to advancements in technology, hearing aid users can hear better than ever, especially in noisy environments.
Why is Background Noise a Problem?
Our brains automatically filter out background noise when we listen, focusing on one source of sound. However, if you have hearing loss, this becomes hard to do.
For first time hearing aid users, you may suddenly experience everyday sounds that did not irritate you before. This could be overwhelming due to the vast amounts of noises that we encounter in our daily lives.
It’s been documented that our public places are getting louder these days. The New York Times recorded the issue in 2012 by measuring the noise levels in 37 establishments made up of bars, restaurants, gyms, and stores around the city. They reported that one third of these places were so loud, that the volume levels put their employee’s hearing health at risk.
Hearing Aid Features that Can Help With Background Noise
Let’s look at ways hearing aid technology is helping to reduce background noise. If you are dealing with hearing loss in both ears, you should wear a hearing aid in each ear so you can recognize where the sound is emanating from and to filter out any distracting noises.
- Digital signal processing (DSP) is a complex process used in hearing aids to help filter out background noise. To maximize the effectiveness of the DSP, a patient should work with an audiologist who is able to program a patient’s hearing aids, based on their hearing prescription and lifestyle needs. This helps to ensure the wearer is able to hear in the best possible way. Hearing aids with a quality digital signal processing system can help wearers hear better, even in noisy environments.
- Directional microphones can help shift the sound coming into the hearing aids so that the wearer can focus on sounds emanating from a specific direction. For example, if you are in a meeting facing someone directly, or perhaps you are driving and your partner is to the side of you in the passenger seat. Directional microphones can adjust so you hear from the direction the sound is coming from.
- Artificial intelligence, or AI, is technology that is able to “learn” from experience and can adjust the wearer’s hearing aids automatically in complicated sound scenes such as a busy airport or train station.
It’s true that many of today’s prescription hearing aids are equipped with these advanced features, which makes hearing easier when background noise is present.
However, there are other options available as well if someone still has trouble.
With assistive listening devices, sound is streamed directly to hearing aids using Bluetooth or FM technology. The accessories can be used while watching TV, talking on the phone, or listening to music. And special remote microphones may be especially helpful in busy restaurants or in meetings by streaming the sound directly to the wearer’s hearing aids.
Additionally, there are induction loop systems, FM systems, and infrared systems that provide assistance with hearing. Even if you already wear hearing aids, each of these may help give your hearing the extra boost it needs.
In addition, if you know you have problems hearing where background noise is present, try these tips:
- Look for restaurants that use sound-absorbing space designs such as carpets and curtains. Additionally, tables that are several feet apart make it easier to hear each other.
- Ensure you can see your conversation partner’s lips and facial expressions by sitting across from him or her. In this way, the listener can better understand what the speaker is saying and understand the context of the conversation.
- Find a spot with good lighting. This also helps you see your dinner partners’ facial expressions and lips.
- Avoid sitting near the kitchen where dishes typically clank together, wait staff may gather, and doors may open and close frequently. The noise can be distracting.
If background noise is a problem for you, reach out to Regional Hearing and Balance to learn more about the wide range of options available to help you hear your best. To book an appointment, call Regional Hearing and Balance Center on 208-497-3596 or click here to request your appointment online.