A common patient question is whether their hearing aid will amplify sounds that are already excessively loud, making those sounds even louder. The answer to this common question is very comforting.
In short, modern hearing aids that are properly fitted and adjusted are designed to avoid amplifying sounds which are already very loud. The important phrase in bold type is why you need to seek the help of a hearing aid specialist.
An explanation of how hearing aids work is required to give a complete answer. Digital hearing aids work by transforming sounds into data. The data which encodes the sounds is then processed in the hearing aid’s microchip before the amplified sound is delivered 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. 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. These digital hearing aids can even adjust dynamically to volume fluctuations such as a musician beginning a song very softly and then increasing the volume.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.
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. However, the most common sounds you encounter should be handled by your properly fitted and programmed hearing aids.