“When considering hearing aids, a lot of people wonder if loud sounds will hurt their ears,” says Hanan Merrill, a hearing practitioner and owner of Nanaimo Hearing Clinic.
It’s a fair question, considering the basics of how they work. Hearing aids are amplifiers — they make sounds louder — and when they’re sitting deep inside your ear it’s reasonable to worry that they’ll make your ears even worse. But modern hearing aids are much more sophisticated than simple amplifiers.
Auto hearing aids have automatic volume control
“Auto hearing aids amplify different volumes of input differently,” Hanan says.
- Soft sounds: When someone nearby is whispering, auto hearing aids will recognize that the sound is very quiet and give it significant amplification. “That’s why, when you first get hearing aids, things like scuffing feet or clothes rubbing sound like sandpaper. You’re not used to hearing them,” Hanan says. Soft sounds get boosted significantly so you can hear them, but the final volume is still within a healthy range.
- Mid-volume sounds: Mid-volume sounds like voices are amplified a little, but not as much as soft sounds. “Many people with hearing loss can still hear many things, it’s just not clear and crisp. You just need a gentle boost to these mid-volume sounds, to take the effort out of tracking the conversation,” Hanan says.
- Loud sounds: A jet flying overhead, a jackhammer, a dog barking — most people with hearing loss don’t need any help hearing these loud sounds. “Some hearing aids are even programmed to compress loud sounds, but it’s important that people who wear hearing aids understand that they don’t count as hearing protection.”
Hearing aids are not hearing protection
If you’re mowing the lawn or operating machinery, hearing aids won’t protect your ears from loud noises — even if they’re programmed to compress loud sounds.
“If you’re near a sound that’s so loud it hurts your ears, hearing aids aren’t going to make it worse but they aren’t going to protect you either. You should still wear ear plugs or hearing protection for those activities.”
Hanan admits there’s one exception where hearing aids may cause damage, but those users understand the risks.
“When someone has profound hearing loss and they need a very large volume increase for most sounds, there are super powerful hearing instruments that do have some risk of minor damage. But when you hardly have any hearing to work with anyway, that may be a risk you’re willing to take.”
In general, hearing aids are a safe boost to the sounds you’re missing, thanks to automatic volume control.
Have other questions about hearing aids? Book an appointment with Hanan by calling 250-585-4100 or at nanaimohearingclinic.com/contact. Find Nanaimo Hearing Clinic at 501-800 Turner Rd in Cactus Club Plaza.