A question frequently asked by patients is whether their new hearing aid will amplify sounds which can be already excessively loud, making those sounds even louder. Fortunately there is a reassuring answer to this question.
Put simply, as long as they’re correctly fitted and adjusted modern hearing aids are designed so that they won’t take already loud sounds and make them even louder, possibly damaging the wearer’s ears. The phrase in bold type is the important part, and why you should seek specialized help with selecting and fitting your hearing aids.
The more complex answer has to do with the nature of modern digital hearing aids themselves, and how they work. Digital hearing aids receive sounds through their microphones and turn them into binary information that can then be processed by the hearing aid’s microchip before it is sent to the earphones. 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. On the other hand, if you suffer from low-frequency hearing loss, the hearing aid settings would be reversed.
Digital hearing aids also have the ability to filter sounds so that you can hear and understand them better. This can make it easier for you to hear voices in the foreground because the hearing aid can detect and amplify those voices while suppressing the noises in the background. 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 also allow the hearing aid wearer to hear faint sounds coming from the direction they are facing, while suppressing noisier sounds coming from behind or to either side.
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.