How Hearing Aids Help in Background Noise

Dr. Cliff Olson
December 2, 2019
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How Hearing Aids Help in Background Noise

Dr. Cliff talks about how hearing aid technology has improved to help you hear better in background noise.

Video Transcript

Learn more about Phonak Hearing Aids and Roger iN devices here:

When getting together with Family and Friends, being able to hear is incredibly important.  However, this can be difficult, especially if you have a large noisy family and a hearing loss.  After all, it is tough enough to hear in background noise when you have normal hearing let alone with a hearing loss.  

This increased difficulty with a hearing loss is caused by a few different things.

#1. Your hearing loss configuration - If you have good low-frequency hearing and bad high-frequency hearing, hearing in background noise can be more difficult because our brains use the high-frequencies to separate speech from background noise.  Noise is also primarily low-frequency which is bad because this means you would hear the noise very well.  

#2. Damage to your Hearing Organ (Cochlea) - Most cases of hearing loss are caused by damage to the Outer Hair Cells (OHCs).  Unfortunately, these outer hair cells also play a role in helping us hearing in background noise.  Once the OHCs are gone, they are gone forever.  

#3. Your Brain's ability to separate Speech from Noise - Over time, research indicates that our brains do a better job of separating speech from noise when we treat the hearing loss in noise.  This can lead to about a 3 dB SNR Loss improvement which is a big improvement.

While wearing hearing aids can improve speech in background noise by making speech information more audible, there are some other features in today's Modern Hearing Aids that can improve speech understanding in noise even further, and that is exactly what Phonak is continuing to improve in their hearing aids.  

First, by using Directionality.  This is where a hearing aid with two microphones can better identify speech vs. noise and orient the direction of the microphones towards the speech.

Second, by using Binaural VoiceStream Technology (BVST).  This is another situation where two hearing aids are better than one.  BVST allows Phonak hearing aids to communicate with each other.  This allows the two microphones on each hearing aid to share information about the listening landscape.  This creates a three dimensional (3D) representation of the acoustic environment.  This allows a hearing aid to do what we call Polar Plotting.  Polar plotting allows a hearing aid to pick up sound from a specific direction.  Typically, you would want the microphones to pick up sound in the direction that is most advantageous depending on the situation you are in.

Third is by using Noise Reduction Technology.  Noise Reduction is the ability of hearing aids to identify steady state noise and reduce it without necessarily reducing speech at the same time.  For example, when you are in a car, the sound of the car engine and road noise is very steady, whereas speech has many fluctuations in intensity.  

When you combine, Dual Microphones, BVST, and Noise Reduction, you have a hearing aid that is capable of improving your speech understanding in background noise.   However, sometimes even the best hearing aids, with the most amazing features, may still not be enough.  This is where remote listening devices, like the Phonak Roger iN Accessories, which include the Roger Pen iN, Roger Select iN, and Partner Mic come into play.  Combined with the Phonak Marvel Hearing Aid, Roger iN devices can send sound from the person you want to hear directly into your hearing aids, without using an external receiver that you would normally have to plug into your hearing aids or around your neck.  Phonak clearly leads the way when it comes to assitive listening devices that help you hear better in background noise.

Constantly improving hearing aid technology has drastically improved how well we can hear in background noise.  You just need to make sure you have the right Assistive Listening Devices to maximize your performance.

Dr. Cliff Olson
Audiologist & YouTuber

Dr. Cliff is an unwavering supporter of Hearing Aid Best Practices and advocate for individuals with hearing loss, which inspired him to develop the Dr. Cliff Approved Provider Network.

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Dr. Cliff Olson

Audiologist & YouTuber