by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man lamented,
I read that “if you wear hearing aids that have t-coils in them, try the dual Music Links and hear beautiful, clear interference-free sounds…”
I have bought these Links but have not experienced the above nirvana. I now have three sets of not more than two year old hearing aids, one from Siemens and two from ReSound. I have gone back to the audiologists many times for adjustments but still experience unpleasant sounds such as hollow, echo-like feed back when reading laying down on a pillow, or unbearable noise in the kitchen and when my wife watches TV with all the ads, etc, etc.
And when using a regular telephone, I need to remove the right hearing aid, and use a special Clarity phone to hear at all usually with bad results because many businesses seem to have their operators in very noisy surroundings. Cell phone calls also are very difficult to understand. So if the hearing aids do not work very well, one can hardly expect the t-coils to help, can one?
You hit the nail on the head. Actually there are three components to all of this.
First, there is the original sound source. If it is of poor quality in the first place, then you can’t expect to hear beautiful clear sound—you’ll get the poor quality sound that went into the system. (That’s the old GIGO business—”garbage in, garbage out”.) You can generally greatly improve the quality of the input sound signal by putting a microphone close to the speaker’s lips. This largely eliminates background sounds near the speaker. The louder the background sounds, the closer the mic needs to be to the speaker’s mouth.
Second, if your ears and/or your auditory processing system are bad—then you won’t hear clear sound either. Even with “perfect” sound quality at the input, if your auditory system is damaged (and if you have a hearing loss, it is damaged), you’ll only hear as well as your damaged auditory system will allow. So do not expect perfect sound. However, the better the sound quality going in, the better you’ll be able to understand it. Thus having a clear signal is very important.
Third, if your hearing aids aren’t adjusted properly for your ears, then no matter how good the sound going into them is, the output from them will be distorted and you won’t have beautiful clear sound coming out of them.
Therefore, when it is all said and done, the Music Links and T-links (and any other assistive devices for that matter) will only give you as beautiful, clear sound as the above three components will allow/provide.
The secret to hearing beautiful clear sound is threefold. First, have a beautiful clear sound source. Second, capture this beautiful clear sound. Third, pipe this beautiful clear sound to your hearing aids via some assistive technology (such as FM,. Infrared, hearing loop) so that the beautiful clear sound doesn’t have to travel through the air via sound waves (where it will degrade more and more as the distance increases). Current technology uses wires, radio waves, light waves or magnetic fields to accomplish this.
The result is beautiful clear sound going into your hearing aids, and if your hearing aids are properly adjusted for your unique hearing needs, you’ll hear beautiful clear sound coming out of them (or at least as well as your damaged auditory processing circuits allow).
The beauty of all these technologies is that if they are directly coupled to the audio source, they will not pick up background sounds around you—so you just hear the sounds you want without any interfering racket.
This works well if you are watching the TV and your wife is producing the “unbearable noise in the kitchen”. If you had looped your house (for example) and were watching the TV and listening via a room loop, you’d only hear the TV if you had your hearing aids set to t-coil only mode. You wouldn’t hear any of the racket from the kitchen. That is a blessing to be sure. However, the way most TV shows are designed, they have loud background sound tracks (supposedly to make the situations sound authentic). Unfortunately, the result is that you can’t hear/understand the speech through all that racket anyway! This is why I need to use both loops and closed captioning so my eyes can see what my ears miss.
Your other problem is the reverse—when your wife has the TV on and the ads, etc. are too loud and often hurt your ears. The solution is to have your hearing aids adjusted (have the sounds compressed) so the louder components of the sounds don’t recruit and hurt. This is seldom done properly—you are a living example of this—and so you don’t find your hearing aids as useful as they could be.
In my case, if I were wearing my hearing aids and my wife had the TV on and it was bothering me, I’d just take my hearing aids off so I couldn’t hear the TV. That’s the simple solution.
The same goes for when you are laying down. Your hearing aids feed back (squeal or try to squeal and thus the echoing kind of sound). This is because the pillow is partially directing the escaping sounds from the earpiece back into the microphone and forming an endless feedback loop. You need to keep things away from your hearing aids so they won’t feedback. When you are laying down, just take your hearing aids off.
If you are watching the TV or listening to a radio, iPod, etc., then the solution is to use some assistive device and couple it to your hearing aids via your t-coils. When you do that, your hearing aids’ microphones are off and thus cannot feed back. Instead you get beautiful clear sound again.
When you use the T-links with a phone, unfortunately, if you are in a noisy area, the phone’s microphone picks up all the surrounding racket and thus you hear it although the person’s voice should be louder—but maybe not enough louder for your damaged ears to separate it from the background sounds.
When people phone you, you have two options. You can use your hearing aids and couple to the phone via your t-coils. If you don’t like the sound from the phone’s receiver, and if you have a special amplified phone that has a jack on the base, you can plug in a neckloop and listen via both ears and the t-coils in your hearing aids. Listening with both ears makes it much easier to understand on the phone. I have to do this all the time.
The other way is to take your hearing aids off (some people like this way better as they feel their hearing aids distort the phone’s sounds) and use a powerful amplified phone. I use both a powerful amplified phone and another powerful in-line amplifier hooked up to the phone and wear binaural headphones. That way I hear in both ears. This allows me to hear on the phone quite well in spite of my severe/profound hearing loss.
I still have the problem of noise at the other end of the phone when the microphone at the other end picks up racket around the speaker. There isn’t much you can do about that except tell the person to call you back when it is quiet, or go to another phone that is in a quiet area and call you.
In spite of their limitations, I still love the various assistive devices (including loop devices) that I use. But wearing hearing aids when there is a lot of background racket? Not a chance! I yank them off, put them in my pocket and enjoy blissful silence.