By Jason Gordon
Difficulty following a conversation in situations with competing background noise is one of the most common hearing problems.
In quiet settings and one-on-one situations, understanding conversation is easy. Add another four or five people, though, and comprehension can decline dramatically. This is known as the “cocktail party effect.”
Will hearing aids help? Simply put, yes. But many factors determine the amount of benefit someone with hearing loss will experience with hearing aids.
Hearing in noisy environments is a complex task largely related to how well our brains process information. Essentially, our ears funnel information to our brain and our brain makes sense of it. Unfortunately, this ability starts declining as early as age 30.
Your hearing is as unique as your fingerprint; no two people experience sound in the same way. So while one hearing aid works for someone, it may not work for another. The major hearing aid manufacturers all produce good products, and they all differ in how they handle the cocktail party effect. That’s why it’s so important to choose a hearing clinic that carries a variety of brands.
In some cases, hearing aids alone may not be effective enough. Separate accessories, called FM systems or Bluetooth microphone systems, can further filter unwanted noise and assist in comprehension. A microphone transmitter can be placed on a table in a busy restaurant, for example, sending speech from friends and family directly into the hearing aids and removing the background noise.
Finally, selecting the right device and getting it tuned optimally for your hearing loss is crucial. A little programming and adjustment can make a major difference to your comprehension in noisy environments.
You can’t control how your ears hear or your brain comprehends. But you can control who you choose to help you hear better.
Jason Gordon, B.Sc., M.Sc., Registered Audiologist, is the owner of Gordon Hearing Services in Comox. For a free hearing assessment, or to learn more, call 250-941-8378 or visit www.gordonhearing.ca.