Hearing Aids and Noisy Restaurants: Do They Help or Hurt?
“I listen VERY closely when people talk about their hearing. Most often what I hear is that they can’t understand speech, or have hearing loss, in noisy restaurants or cocktail parties.” This seems to match the experiences of a reporter recently on MSNBC. His past article has nine questions to determine if your hearing is getting worse. Three of the nine all have to do with understanding people without asking them to repeat themselves.
While the story is amusing and the test helpful, we still have yet to see one television program or major newspaper educate consumers on all the downsides of not understanding what people are saying. With 10-20 percent of everyone in the US having hearing loss, that is a huge number of people in desperate need of the key messages.
Can’t Hear In Noisy Environments?
Over 38 million Americans fall in this category. They, and their families, need to know that hearing is arguably the most important of our senses. This isn’t new. The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, said something close in the 17th century. Note to the hearing impaired: if you can’t hear and are not looking into hearing aids you risk isolating your self in a way you don’t want.
One important part of the solution to hearing loss requires hearing-in-noise testing (or speech-in-noise testing). While it may be shocking, it is rare to find an audiologist or hearing aid dealer who is doing these tests on each and every patient. You’d think that if their patients tell them they can’t hear in noisy environments they would make the testing routine. They are relatively easy and inexpensive. On the other side of the equation, the patient reaps the benefits of hearing aids in a big way. If you’ve heard that hearing aids can’t help in noisy restaurants, you should know it probably is NOT the fault of the hearing aids. It’s how they were fitted.
Modern hearing aids have great technology that can help most people hear better. Hearing professionals who do the right testing and verification can fit them right, which makes the patient more comfortable as well. Next time, ask your audiologist if they are doing hearing-in-noise testing and, if not, why not.