Patients that are being fitted for a hearing aid to help them hear better often ask what the hearing aid will do with sounds which are still too loud for them. This is a normal question, one for which there is fortunately a comforting answer.
In a nutshell, modern hearing aids that are properly fitted and adjusted are designed to avoid amplifying sounds that are already very loud. We can’t overemphasize how important the phrase in bold is; this is the reason you need professional help with selecting and fitting your hearing aids.
An explanation of how hearing aids work is required to give a complete answer. 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. Your individual needs can be met with these digital hearing aids by programming and adjusting the maximum volume and the quality of sounds. An example might be that we program your hearing aid to amplify high-frequency sounds and reduce the volume of lower-frequency sounds if you suffer from primarily high-frequency hearing loss. 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. For example, if foreground voices are obscured by background noise, the hearing aid can detect the noise and suppress it or lower its volume, amplifying only the voices. The hearing aids can also be adjusted to dynamically compensate for differences in volume; if the speaker or music you are listening to starts softly but then increases and becomes too loud, the hearing aid can compensate for this. Directional microphones assist this process by detecting the direction of sounds. They allow sounds from the direction you are facing while suppressing sounds from the side and behind.
An important point to remember is that hearing aids will not protect your ears from loud sounds like earplugs do. Noise-induced hearing loss can still be caused by loud sounds such as chainsaws or overly amplified rock concerts. But in most situations your properly fitted and programmed hearing aid should handle most of the range of sounds you’re likely to encounter.