Listening is hard work in complex sound settings, even when our hearing loss is mild.
But help is at hand. Fiona Idriss, our senior audiologist and sound sensitivity clinic lead, has some great ideas here to make it easier to listen when there’s background noise.
There are people with no hearing loss who are unable to hear speech in background noise due to problems with auditory processing.
Wearing face masks for Covid-19 protection has shown that information from lip-reading and facial expression is invaluable. Fortunately, there are a plethora of hearing tactics and assistive listening devices that help to reduce our listening effort and keep us in touch with the people and things we value most.
Face the person you want to hear
If you are out with friends and go to a cafe, look around first and find the main background sound sources. For instance, sit as far away from the noisy counters with coffee grinders and steam, but also check you are not sitting directly by a speaker playing music.
Face the person you want to hear. Bright lighting and leaning forward can all help to reduce your listening effort. If you feel comfortable, let the people with you know that if they want to speak to you, it will help to alert you first. Saying your name, or touching your shoulder, gives you time to turn to see them. Ask them to “rephrase” when you are unsure of what has been said, or use a communication partner, someone who knows your difficulties well and can help to mediate in the conversation.
Maybe choose to go to quieter venues where you know it is easier to listen. It is so important to make choices that enable you to reduce the stress of communication, particularly with the people that matter to you.
Make use of apps that can translate speech into text, in real time, when you really struggle to hear clearly. Consider improving lip-reading skills by attending a class or on-line course.
Use noise suppression programmes
If you use hearing aids, select the best programme/setting for that listening environment and talk to your audiologist about the technology available for your specific needs, type, and degree of hearing loss.
You may find you prefer to use a remote control to change the programme and volume, simply and discretely, even if you have controls on the aids. The hearing aids we supply have excellent background noise suppression programmes with directional microphones.
They give you the best chance to hear speech in noise and your audiologist can adjust settings to improve speech clarity with improved noise reduction. It is one of the reasons we want to see you every six months to check the settings are right for you.
Personalise your settings
However, sometimes we really need to consider additional technology. Some hearing aids have an associated hearing control app which you can download to your Apple or Android mobile phone or tablet to control the hearing aids and personalise the settings that you prefer for each listening situation.
Your audiologist will be able to advise you on compatibility with these devices.
Some hearing aids enable you to tag certain places, using the GPS in your phone, to change the hearing aid settings to suit different, specific, locations. This enables your hearing aids to automatically and seamlessly change to the learned settings that work best for your favourite restaurant or pub. As you walk in, the phone communicates with your hearing aids to change to the best configuration for the venue.
With Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and an experienced audiologist, hearing aids are increasingly adaptable and beneficial.
Direct streaming helps
How about using hearing aids that allow direct streaming of phone calls, or music from an iPhone? This gives so much benefit to many of my patients and they find answering calls and understanding conversations so much easier. Hearing the caller in both ears improves hearing calls in noisy situations. We can supply hearing aids that even allow you to tap the hearing aid to answer the call directly. It is all very Star Trek!
Some of these apps allow you to sit the phone in the middle of the table at a restaurant or in a meeting and stream the conversation to the hearing aids. In other cases, we can supply separate table or lapel mics that enable you to hear well in social and educational settings.
Don’t feel defeated
TV streamers are also extremely popular and enable you to hear the TV wirelessly through your hearing aids at the correct level just for you, reducing the frustration of having to rely on subtitles that may not be coordinated or transcribed well.
Please do not feel defeated if you are not “into technology.” Even without mobile phones and tablets, we can advise and supply simple solutions that are easy to set up with your hearing aids. And if you honestly don’t feel this is the right time to use hearing aids, but realise you are struggling, we can advise on devices that are great for amplifying the TV and telephones.
Whatever communication problems you face, our audiologists are here to support you and tailor your management plan. Your hearing needs are our priority and we give you the information to allow you to make choices that are best for you.
If you struggle to hear in background noise ring us on 0800 028 6179 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about the help available