by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A mother wrote:
My beautiful daughter was born with impaired hearing, and the doctors said she would lose her hearing as she got older. She is now in her forties. With her hearing aid, she hears noises, but cannot understand speech because of the background noise she picks up. Is there a way to soften the background noise so she can hear conversations?
Your daughter is not alone. Did you know that this is the most common complaint people have about hearing aids—that they pick up so much noise you can’t understand speech?
Compounding this problem for your daughter is the fact she only has one ear—and you need two ears in order for your brain to help filter out noise.
Fancy new hearing aids claim (don’t believe everything you read) that they can filter out noise from speech (and some do a reasonable job in certain situations), but no hearing aids do the kind of job normally-hearing ears do.
There is one main secret to hearing speech in noise, and that is to get the microphone right up to the speaker’s lips so his/her voice is much louder than the surrounding noise. In order to do this you either have to have the person talk right into the hearing aid’s microphone (not practical at all), or you need to use an assistive device either in combination with the hearing aid or by itself.
For noisy situations, my choice is a PockeTalker with a super-directional microphone when standing or moving around (such as at a party or convention), or a lapel microphone if seated near the person such as in a car or restaurant.
If your daughter’s hearing aid has a t-coil in it (and all hearing aids should have t-coils), then she can switch to the t-coil setting. This turns the microphone off so it can’t pick up any noise, and at the same time turns on the t-coil. Then she wears a neckloop or Music Link plugged into the PockeTalker. She will hear via the t-coil in her hearing aid via the PockeTalker and neckloop.
These assistive devices aren’t expensive like hearing aids are—but they do cost a bit of money. For example, the PockeTalker is about $140.00, the neckloop or Music Link is around $50.00, the lapel microphone is about $70.00 and the super-directional microphone is about $90.00.
When it gets noisy, if I want to hear a person I have basically three choices. I either:
a. Ask them to move with me to a quieter location (if possible).
b. Speechread them and forget about trying to hear.
c. Whip out my PockeTalker and appropriate microphone and hear them that way.