by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
August 28, 2009
You don’t want to be taken in by ads that claim you will hear well with the latest hearing device. NewsChannel 5 ( WTVF) recently wrote a story that begins:
If you’re having trouble hearing, you might be tempted to buy a new product called the Loud ‘N Clear.
It promises to help you hear better and even hear things you might not ordinarily be able to.
But, can the Loud ‘N Clear really do all that its ads claim?
NewsChannel 5 Investigates put it to the test, and consumer investigator Jennifer Kraus found the answer is… [story no longer available on-line].
This expose’ is itself a bit misleading. It asks whether you can hear across a street, or what people are saying in a crowded room with lots of other noise, etc. The answer to that is no, the Loud ‘N Clear can’t do that, but surprise, neither can my fancy hearing aids. You have to have realistic expectations of what hearing aids and assistive devices can and cannot do for you. One thing they won’t do is restore your hearing to normal. In quiet situations you can expect to hear much better, but in noise, or in groups, you will still find that you typically miss a lot.
You see, there are two factors in hearing loss. First, obviously, since you have lost some hearing, you need a device to make sounds louder—and hearing aids and other devices can do that without any problem. However, they cannot fix the second factor that also accompanies hearing loss, namely, poor discrimination.
In other words, speech may be loud enough for you to hear people talking, but you may still miss a lot of what they are saying because your ears can’t hear many of the high-frequency speech sounds that give speech much of its “intelligence”.
In noisy situations you can’t rely solely on devices or hearing aids unless you can get the microphone right up to the speaker’s lips. (This is why FM systems work so well in these situations—you have the remote microphone right at the speaker’s lips.)
Trying to hear a person talking through noise and at a distance just isn’t going to work, whether you are using your “big buck” hearing aids, or the Loud ‘N Clear, or any other assistive device unless you have a remote microphone at the speaker’s mouth. That’s just the way it is.