Background Noise — Why There Is No Hiding From It

Background noise is a challenge for everyone

For most people, hearing in background noise is very difficult. For people with normal hearing, it is difficult, and for people with hearing loss, it is nearly impossible. Almost no one knows what goes on at a wedding reception because there are so many toasts, side conversations, and environmental sounds (like a band) to distract from the conversation that you want to hear.

Don’t despair

Hearing aid brochures are always claiming that their product has the newest technology and can get rid of background noise. Advertisements like that are overly optimistic and can fill a hearing-impaired person with false hope and ultimate disappointment. But don’t despair. There are solutions for hearing in background noise, but first you must understand the problem.


When someone with normal hearing finds themselves in a difficult listening environment, they will subconsciously lean forward and pay close attention to the speaker. The normal hearer may miss 20% or 30% of what the speaker is saying because of the background or ambient noise, but they get 70%–80%, so their brains will help fill in the blanks.

Even a quiet environment can be a challenge

When you have a hearing loss, depending on the amount of loss, you might miss 50% or 60% of a conversation in a quiet environment. With hearing aids properly fit, you can improve that significantly, then missing only 20%–30% of the conversation. Again, this is fairly easy to fill in. But remember, this is in a quiet environment. Now we are going to put you in that noisy environment with your normal-hearing friend. Remember, you were missing some conversation before the background noise started. Now you are going to miss an additional 20%–30% just like your friend, but when you add that to the 20%–30% you were missing in the quiet environment, the gaps can become too big to fill in.

Technology alone isn’t enough

The problem with the misleading advertising is not that the technology is not good. In fact, hearing aid technologies are indeed better than they have ever been. There are superior noise reduction circuits and speech recognition circuits, but what is misleading is that you still have impaired hearing. Technology is not enough. If your provider doesn’t carefully review your hearing loss with you, then you may find yourself with expectations that cannot be met. Critical to the success of any hearing aid fitting is a thorough understanding of your hearing loss and expectations. Hearing aids might only be part of the solution. Changes in your communication strategies, such as sitting in the corner of the restaurant or in a booth, may also be helpful.

New devices available

There are some wonderful assistive devices that can enhance the use of your hearing aids by connecting you directly to your TV, telephone, or to your significant other via microphone. Recently there was a wonderful story on Public Radio addressing hearing aid technologies and some of these assistive devices. To read the article, click here!

We can help

If you would like to discuss these wonderful advances in technology or just review your hearing status, please call and make an appointment with your AudigyCertified™ provider. We are happy to review what options might be best for you.

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