Patients that are being fitted for a hearing aid in order to hear quiet sounds frequently ask what the hearing aid is going to do with noises which are still excessively loud for them. This is a logical question, one for which there is fortunately a comforting answer.
Simply put, so long as they’re properly fitted and adjusted modern hearing aids are made so that they will not take already loud sounds and make them louder still, possibly harming the user’s ears. The bold phrase is the critical part, and why you need to seek specialized help with choosing 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. 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.
Digital hearing aids also have the ability to filter sounds so that you can hear and understand them better. 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. 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.