Hearing Aids

How Do Loud Sounds Affect People Who Wear Hearing Aids?

In the past, the only means of dealing with this problem was adjusting volume up and down.


This is a question that I hear often, both from those who wear hearing aids and those who don’t. When people think of hearing loss, they generally think of an inability to hear soft sounds, which is absolutely true. What they don’t realize is that most people with hearing loss are actually MORE sensitive to loud sounds than their normal-hearing counterparts are. In fact, loud sounds can actually be a bigger issue for people with hearing loss than for their normal-hearing counterparts.

Tricky business

This problem, called recruitment, is very tricky for those who fit hearing aids. On one hand, we need to amplify the specific sounds that our patients have trouble hearing.  On the other hand, if the input to the hearing aid gets too loud, the power to the hearing aid could easily exceed the patient’s uncomfortable loudness level, or UCL. In the past, the patient’s only means of dealing with this problem was turning the hearing aid’s volume up and down via a manual control. This created significant issues for the hearing aid wearer, who was constantly turning the hearing aids up and down in response to sounds that were either to soft or too loud.  In either case, the noise problem had already happened. The patient was still struggling to function normally.

There is good news

The good news is that today’s hearing aids allow for an automatic volume control. Using something called compression, the audiologist can manipulate the digital circuit so that soft speech is audible (can be heard), and loud sounds are loud but not uncomfortable. Does this happen on day one?  No. That’s why it’s imperative that patients go through an extensive trial period so that the appropriate adjustments can be made. Once those adjustments are made, the patient can expect to tolerate the volume in any situation.


By Kevin Amdahl, MS

Kevin completed both his undergraduate and graduate work in audiology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, finishing in 1994. Between 1994 and 2002 he worked in private practices in Lansing, MI, and Willmar, MN, eventually becoming Director of Audiology Services in a practice with six locations. In 2002, he took a position with Micro-Tech, a hearing aid manufacturer, working in the education and training department. At Micro-Tech he traveled extensively throughout the United States, training other hearing professionals on the latest hearing aid technology as well as appropriate application of that technology to some of the most difficult hearing losses he has ever seen. He was lucky enough to be a featured speaker at national conventions and have had a paper published in a nationally published hearing journal. He eventually progressed to head of the education and training department, a position he held until July of 2007, when he left the manufacturing world for private practice and Amdahl Hearing with the simple goal of doing a better job for the people struggling with hearing loss.