means more than simply hearing less well. It also means difficulties in understanding. Noises differ with respect to tone, with some being more shrill or some more buzzing. Certain sounds are typically perceived as unpleasant, or even painful. In such cases, "making things louder“ is not the right way to help people hear better again.
Determining the right volume
Technology for amplifying sound signals is vital. People with impaired hearing can only hear sounds above a certain volume, meaning these sounds must be louder than for those with good hearing. However, if everything were to be made louder, a noise such as a police siren would be absolutely unbearable. This is why hearing aid adjustment is used to determine the hearing aid wearer's discomfort threshold. This threshold represents the sound level beyond which sounds are perceived as unpleasant. For most people with normal hearing, this value is around 100 decibels (dB), although the values vary according to the individual.
Background noise and exact frequency ranges
In addition to general volume, a hearing aid must amplify the specific frequencies that the wearer can no longer hear very well. Digital hearing aids
, which are now state-of-the-art technology, are able to compensate hearing loss in various frequency ranges in a precise and targeted way.
The real challenge – for both technology and humans – is to filter out background noise. During conversations in busy restaurants, for example, even people with normal hearing rely on some very complex processing mechanisms to single out a friend's voice. Modern hearing aid technologies feature special functions that significantly improve speech comprehension in such difficult situations.
In order to cope with difficult situations, modern devices
also feature various hearing programs for different hearing contexts, such as restaurants or listening to music. Hearing aids also have several frequency channels, making it possible to adapt sound amplification individually to the wearer's needs. Background noise and unpleasant feedback whistling can also be suppressed.
Hearing aids work with your brain
If sounds in certain frequencies are no longer forwarded to the brain then the brain gradually forgets how to interpret these sounds. Hearing aids will pick up sounds your brain hasn’t processed in a while. It can take time to get used to this – up to 12 weeks depending upon your hearing loss. One of the functions of hearing aids is to act as a kind of "trainer" for the brain in order to regain lost hearing. Soft and high-pitched tones can be audible once more and specific sounds and shades of meaning can be distinguished.