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NOISE AND HEARING AIDS
Virtually all patients wearing hearing aids initially complain about background noise at one time or another. There is no way to completely eliminate background noise. Please understand, your hearing aid cannot tell the difference between speech you want to hear from the speech of others you do not want to hear. There are features in hearing aids that help to reduce and/or minimize the effects of background noise and other unwanted sounds. It's good to discuss these issues with your audiologist to find out as much as you can.
DIRECTIONAL MICROPHONE TECHNOLOGY
Remember, when you had normal hearing there were still times when background noise was a problem, although it is initially perceived as worse even with properly fit hearing aids. Directional microphones are available and are useful as they help to focus the amplification in front of you or towards the origin of the sound source. The newest systems reduce noise from behind and beside the wearer, by constantly tracking and reducing the loudest noise source. This immediate reduction in background noise provides enhanced speech clarity. Still, even newer instruments have a high resolution beam former with independent beams to locate and simultaneously suppress multiple noise sources, enabling users to better meet the challenge of communication in noisy environments.
In most of today's 100% digital hearing aids, the noise control features help make noise more tolerable, but research shows they can only marginally reduce the adverse effects of background noise. Again, the main problem is that what we perceive as unwanted background noise is usually made up to same signals you are attempting to hear - speech. Canceling speech defeats the purpose of using the hearing aid.
FREQUENCY MODULATION (FM), BLUETOOTH, AND OTHER WIRELESS TECHNOLOGIES
FM: One way to eliminate or reduce background noise is through the use of FM technology. FM is the simplest way to take an input, such as speech from the person you really want to hear, and send it directly to your hearing aid at distances up to 100 feet. It involves an FM transmitter (with microphone, or direct audio input) linked with an FM receiver routed directly or indirectly to your hearing aid(s). Direct routing means the FM receiver is physically attached to the hearing aid, usually a Behind-the-Ear style. Indirect routing means the FM receiver sends the signals to your hearing aids, usually In-the-Ear styles, by way of the T-coil(s). Please speak with your audiologist about these additional features if your word understanding is poorer than 25% of what you want to hear.
BLUETOOTH: Hearing aids and Bluetooth can be paired to work together. Bluetooth flat form technology is readily available in selected hearing aid instruments and will continue to be utilized, since practically all of today's hearing aids are digital. The main problem at this time is making the Bluetooth receiver small enough to be marketable to people using hearing aids on a daily basis.
OTHER WIRELESS TECHNOLOGIES: One of the most effective wireless technologies for people with hearing problems involves the sending of auditory messages via IR (infrared) or RF (radio frequency) transmission. It is available commercially in TV listening devices and the sound quality is unbelievably good. It is also available in beam-forming devices. Beam-forming selects a line of sound to be heard; for example, when a person is at a table in a restaurant it helps eliminates reception of sound to everything else. It is the ultimate in directional hearing; however, it is very impractical and cumbersome to use on a daily basis and why we do not hear more about it.