When Your Hearing Aid Settings Are Just Wrong

This weekend my hearing aid settings were just wrong. I could hear every background noise, each buzz and beep, but not voices. At dinner, the silverware clinking on the plates blocked out the conversation. In the car, the sound of the wind overpowered the music. My children’s laughter in the back seat was excruciatingly loud, but my husband’s voice beside me was not discernible. I had visited the audiologist the day before and we had made a few tweaks. I couldn’t wait to go back to set things right.

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My hearing aids are atypical. They are extended wear and are replaced on a subscription model every few months. I always get the most recent technology, which is wonderful, but sometimes the settings from the last pair are not saved properly and it is a bit of trial and error to get myself back on course. This time was one of the bad times.

I am always surprised that I don’t notice the problem right away, but since the new pair has a fresh battery, everything usually sounds a little sharper and fresher. Sometimes I mistake a problem for this enhancement. Since it takes a day or two to adjust to any new hearing aid settings, I usually give it a few days to be sure I have a problem before returning to the audiologist for a correction. She is always very willing to help, but the interim period is painful.

This particular time, the settings felt incredibly out of whack. The sound of paper rustling was painful. Water running was agony. The strangest sounds were amplified like the sound of my towel drying my face after washing it. Voices were hidden behind the onslaught of heaters, refrigerators and even the wind. It was all too loud and disorienting.

I kept my hearing aids in sleep mode most of the weekend. This reduced the overwhelming din of the background noise and relieved the feeling that I was drowning in sound, but left me feeling disoriented and dizzy. It also revved up my tinnitus, since the sounds I hear through my hearing aids were no longer masking it.

I used lipreading and high levels of mental concentration to follow conversations. By Sunday night, I was wiped out. All I wanted was silence and captions.

The good news is that I knew on Monday, my audiologist and I would work through it and get me back in business. And we did.

This experience highlights the importance of staying on top of your hearing health. If you notice something suddenly odd about the way things sound through your hearing aids, make an appointment with your audiologist right away. Perhaps your hearing aid needs an adjustment or your audiogram needs updating.

Only you can know for sure if something feels wrong — and you must take action to fix it. Your hearing and the quality of your life depend on it.

Readers, have your hearing aid settings ever been just wrong?

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29 thoughts on “When Your Hearing Aid Settings Are Just Wrong

  1. I could relate to this post. Haven’t had quite the problems you describe, but i have found I have to be very persistent in getting the kind of adjustments I need. It makes all the difference.

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  2. How/where did you get the opportunity to get “extended wear” hearing aids, that can be replaced, every few months?
    Who is the manufacturer and how did you find out about this?

    thank you.

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  3. Oh, yes, I can identify! For several weeks after getting new behind-the-ear hearing aids all I could hear was my footsteps as I walked about. Voices were muffled and I was sure these were not the hearing aids for me. When I complained to my audiologist, she called the manufacturer and learned that my ‘footsteps’ problem was caused, not by the wrong settings on the hearing aids, but by not having the flexible dome pushed far enough into my ear canal! A gentle nudge to the domes completely corrected the problem, eliminating the sound of my footsteps and restoring the more welcome sound of voices!

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  4. Shari, my very first HAs in 1997 seemed loud but I was seriously affected by hearing loss so I could expect some increase in volume – right? So I left the audiologist’s office listening to every foot fall and slamming door. I got into my old pickup truck and started the engine and immediately shut it down thinking the engine had thrown a rod or some other catastrophic event had happened. Ultimately I began the 15 mile drive home but had to turn around and go back to have him turn the volume down. It was just too uncomfortable. And I couldn’t afford a new truck.

    I think what you described is not that uncommon. It’s been a learning experience for me. Over time you become more expert at working with your audiologist go achieve the proper settings. Even then, it may take further adjustment to get it right. There is never a final setting. I do hope things are better for you now. What you describe would drive me nuts.

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  5. Hi. What an interesting post. I have recently experienced sudden hearing loss in my left ear. This has left me with only 10 percent of hearing in that ear, which is basically nothing. i have been told that a hearing aid wouldn’t be of any use. Anyway, although i am not a hearing aid wearer, what i really sympathize with you is when sounds are almost painful to hear. i have this problem with running water, the kettle boiling and the sound of pots and pans when they clink together…this makes normal everyday life experiences often difficult to manage. I hope you got your hearing aids sorted and you can get back some improved hearing quality 🙂

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    • Thank you for your concern and for sharing your experiences. My settings have been adjusted and I am coping much better. I hope you are doing well with the loud sounds. They can be very troubling. Perhaps an ENT might have a suggestion.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I can really relate to this post. The hearing aid in my right ear had to be sent back to the factory. I was given a loaner to use and it seemed so loud. I was glad when my own hearing aid came back. Unfortunately, it was like the loaner. The paper rustling, clinking silverware, the keys clicking on my keyboard and raised voices hurt my ear and drove me crazy. I asked my audiologist to lower the volume a bit. She fixed it but then it was too low and I had trouble hearing things like the voices on TV. Recently, I had her push up the volume just a bit. It’s better but not perfect. My audiologist claims the settings are correct. I thought I was the only one experiencing this sort of thing. Your blog has been helpful and enlightening.

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  7. Shari, what type of loss do you have? I’ve been curious about Lyric but thought it was for moderate loss. My frustration is…why can every sound be amplified but not voices, the most important thing? My saving grace is that I can manually adjust volume. But I feel your pain. I’m not understanding why FM works so well for most of us when it comes to speech, but hearing aids have not yet figured out how to help us in that same regard.

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    • They are for mild to moderate losses so I can use them for now. I like wearing them 24/7. It really helps with my tinnitus. I do wish all hearing aids were better at identifying voices. Thanks for your comments.

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  8. I had to laugh reading this post.
    I have a severe Reverse Slope hearing loss. Since it is so rare (something like 2% of all hearing loss people have it), there really is little to no research and development for people like me, as there is no profit in it for the hearing aid companies. So those of us with it have to make do with whatever works, even if it is only a slight improvement. Although the Lyric is for mild to moderate loss, for some reason it works better for one of my ears (left) than other kinds of HA’s. But not in the right ear (go figure!), so I use a BTE in that one. I wanted to give the Lyric another try though, as things are always changing, and I like having it 24/7. So my audiologist put one in my right ear again for a trial.

    I thought I was being attacked by birds, they were so loud it was like something out of a zoo birdhouse, or a horror movie….. but my friend said the birds were actually off in the distance and could barely be heard! Every noise I didn’t want to hear was practically nailing me to a wall. After a day of this I was shaking so badly I had to pull it out of my ear.

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    • I have a reverse slope loss as well and can definitely relate. I don’t get the “wow factor” with hearing aids that I feel like many high frequency hearing loss folks do. Speech in noise and talking to people who are on cellphones are my biggest troubles.

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      • The Lyric in the one ear coupled with headphones plugged into my cell phone is the only way I can use a phone at all. Telecoils have been useless for me. The nice thing about the Lyric is that you are using your own natural ear to catch sound instead of a behind-the-ear receiver. If only they would come out with a digital Lyric (they are analog) with a wider range for people like us, we might get the benefit others like Shari get.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I wear RIC Oticon OPNs which allow me to get a phone call directly in the hearing aids via Bluetooth. I use that with the InnoCaption app for work phone calls. It’s funny how I have no problem hearing the phone ring, it’s just hearing the person on the phone that is the problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sad that you had to experience this. You’d think your audiologist would have done better. Certainly explains why hearing aids end up in dresser drawers. Kudos for knowing to return for a reprogram.

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  11. Hi Shari,

    Yes, yes and yes! I love the new automatic features with today’s hearing aids, but when things are wonky or out of adjustment, yeah, it makes me crazy. I’m old enough to remember manual adjustment aids, perhaps others do too? Daily, we were to have a consistent volume source like TV or a clock radio and adjust the volume on each aid to start the day going from worst to best. During the day, we were actually “encouraged” to make volume adjustments, use the phone switch, etc. Back then, the term, “turn up your hearing aid” although hurtful, did have validity!

    In those bygone days, it was entirely possible that my failure to hear/understand something might have been as much of a technical issue as it was to a hearing loss issue. All the reason to have a close relationship with your audiologist and to stay up to date on your fittings/adjustments.

    A couple years ago, we went on an extended bus trip into New England/Canada to view the foliage, etc. Beautiful, except on the first day something happened to my left aid…..grrrr. (These days, I am severe/profound on the right side and moderate/severe on the left.) Staying on the move and traveling internationally, there was really no time to make even an emergency hearing aid stop……that first night, I bought a “pocket talker” kind of device and made it through the trip. Thank you to the nice folks who changed seats with us so I could get closer to the tour guide!

    This “emergency” prompted me to assemble a hearing aid emergency kit when I travel for longer than over night. Inside, I have the following…

    1) A spare BTE hearing aid with ear molds right and left. (My spare is an old analogue aid from years ago which I had refurbished. Darn thing still sounds good!)
    2) A card of batteries
    3) Tubing, cleaning brushes, etc.
    4) An aspirator bulb to clean out ear molds and tubing
    5) A manual dehumidifier kit
    6) A copy of my audiogram and settings for my hearing aids. My audiologist’s business card and her cell phone number just in case!

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  12. Love this article, one thing I have a question is, what is A typical, and how can you go about changing every few months the subscription model? I never heard of that before. Also, do you know if there are any hearing aid companies that have clinical trials for new hearing aid models ?

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