A frequent question asked by patients being fitted for hearing aids deals with whether the hearing aids which are meant to help them hear weak sounds will make the loud noises too loud. Thankfully there’s a comforting answer to this specific question.
Put simply, as long as they are correctly fitted and adjusted modern hearing aids are designed so that they will not take already loud sounds and make them louder still, potentially harming the wearer’s ears. We can’t overemphasize how critical the phrase in bold is; this is the reason you need professional help with choosing and fitting your hearing aids.
A longer answer to the same question requires an explanation of hearing aids themselves, and the way that they work. Basically, they pick up sounds and transform them into digital information, which is then processed by the microchip in the hearing aid in many different ways before being routed to your ears. These hearing aids are programmable, which means that not only can the maximum volume permitted be adjusted to suit your individual tastes, the actual qualities of the sounds can also be adjusted. If you have primarily high-frequency hearing loss, for example, we might program the hearing aid to amplify those sounds while reducing the volume of lower-frequency sounds. If you suffer more from low-frequency hearing loss, the hearing aid can be programmed accordingly.
The newest digital hearing aids can also filter sounds to make them easier for you to understand. Background noise can be detected and reduced in volume, while voices in the foreground can be detected and amplified so you can hear them more easily. If volume levels change – for example if music starts at a low volume but then becomes too loud – the hearing aid can dynamically compensate for it. This process is aided by directional microphones that can detect where sounds are coming from and thus reduce the volume of background noise coming from behind or to the sides while increasing the volume of sounds coming from in front of you.
Be aware that hearing aids do not protect the ear the way that ear plugs are designed to do. If you are exposed to dangerously loud sounds, such as those caused by machinery like chainsaws or overly amplified rock concerts, you still could be risking further hearing loss. But properly fitted and properly programmed, your hearing aid should cover most of the situations you are likely to find yourself in.