Sometimes I wonder if my hearing aids really help me hear better. I was due for my annual hearing test and asked my audiologist if we could run an experiment. I asked her to test my speech understanding both with my hearing aids and without them. I wanted to see the difference in my word comprehension.
The verdict. They absolutely do.
My annual hearing test is always a source of stress for me. Did my hearing get worse? Will my tinnitus disrupt the results? How will I handle the disappointment of having my hearing loss smack me right in the face? Despite these misgivings, I test my hearing at least once a year. That way I can tackle any new problems right away.
This year I decided to do try something new. I wanted to test my hearing without my hearing aids (the normal way), but also while wearing my hearing aids. I was curious to see how much I benefit from the hearing aids, especially when it comes to understanding speech.
My audiologist was skeptical about testing me while I was wearing my hearing aids. She worried that the programming of the hearing aids (automatically making certain tones louder or softer) might negate the test’s effectiveness, but she agreed to do it anyway. I am so glad she did.
She gave me the standard hearing test first. You know the drill. Press the button when you hear the tone — first with the headphones and then on the bone. This was followed by the speech test. Repeat the words as they get softer. I am fairly confident my guesses of “baptize” and “awkward” were wrong. Alas.
Then the “say the word” game. Say the word, “thrive.” Say the word, “life.” I usually do pretty well with this one since she sets her voice at a level I can theoretically hear.
Then came the experiment. We did the speech test again with my hearing aids in place. It made a huge difference! Maybe this should have been obvious — I converse much better with my hearing aids than without them — but somehow seeing it in the blue and red lines of my audiogram made it seem more real.
At each frequency tested, I was able to understand speech 20-25 decibels softer than without my hearing aids. While it was still not in the normal range at all frequencies, it was in the range of typical conversational speech. Thank you hearing aids.
Of course, this all took place in the silence (if you ignore my tinnitus) of the testing booth. Now if only we could get rid of the background noise of real life, I would be set.
Readers, do you hear better with your hearing aids?
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35 thoughts on “Do My Hearing Aids Really Help Me Hear Better?”
I have 2 CI’s so I am sure that I hear better with them than without them but I remember when I wore hearing aids wondering really how much good they did. Thanks for article. >
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Yes, I do. When I first started wearing my hearing aids (CROS for single sided deafness) I wasn’t to sure either. when my doctor asked me I they made a positive difference and why, I wasn’t able to give him a good answer. Just that when I did not wear them I missed them.
That is about one and a half years ago now. Now I do know how to describe it. Sounds are more clear to me when using my aids and, allthough far from perfect, they do let me hear some sounds that come to me at my deaf side.
I have never done the hearing test without me hearing aids. That is something I will ask my audiologist next time 🙂
Great! Let me know how the test goes. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I’m 3 weeks in to my CI journey and my ear that was considered not worthy of a hearing aide tested better than my aided ear. I still have lots of work to do but was shocked by the result as was my audiologist. I waited way too long to get help and encourage anyone to not wait and seek help. Hearing Aides and CI’s do help and can keep you out of that lonely isolation that hearing loss can cause.
Great advice. I agree. Thanks for sharing.
I also worry about my tinnitus affecting my results!…but nobody has ever asked me about this…
It’s good to know your hearing aids are providing you with help 🙂 Also great for the audiologist to let you try the test both ways – I think sometimes we need to do these little experiments to help us deal with our hearing issues. Take care. Carly
You should mention your tinnitus to the audiologist. They can use a different kind of tone…I believe they are more of a pulsating sound. I don’t know that it makes that much of a difference for me, but at least they know why I might be signaling when there is no tone. I always have tones in my head!
Yes. I think she did use that. I have a post on this coming out soon. Thanks for suggesting it.
Oh thank you for telling me this Suzan! I didn’t know they had different tones for people with tinnitus. I will mention this in two weeks when I have my next hearing test. Yes, I always have tones ringing in my head, and sometimes think i have put my hand up for a tinnitus sound! Thank you and take care. Carly
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Yes, the hearing aids are making all the difference with understanding for me. For instance, this morning before I had put them in, my husband was talking with me before he left for work. He said something that I heard, but didn’t understand. I waited a beat and he touched his neck and I realized he was taking about shaving. After two months of using my hearing aids I realize I don’t have to depend on gestures and context nearly as much. And now I have many more stories that are similar to this. It’s freeing up my brain to use for something other than struggling to understand conversation.
Wonderful news! Thank you for sharing your experience.
Having worn hearing aids since age 12, I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with them. I know now I can never go out the door without them on, but at times I want to throw them out the window. The buzzing feedback you get when too close to a wall or object or when the ear mold is not tightly fit drives me nuts. With tinnitus, I have enough annoying noises in my ears.
But my hearing aids have helped me to survive in the hearing world, even through I have a profound loss and pretty much rely 95% on lip reading which I’ve become amazingly expert at to survive. And my hearing aids have allowed me to live and work among hearing people for 54 years, so I am convinced they do help me to hear better! Even if the amplified sounds from a hearing aid are not natural and I cannot detect a persons accent like a normal hearing person can, they are enough.
So I’m grateful for my hearing aids.
But what I’m amazingly grateful for are the amazing people in my world who have so much patience to help and assist me to continue on with my journey in the hearing world so I always feel part of it.
That is great perspective. Thanks for sharing it here.
My husband doesn’t believe he has a hearing problem, even though he is on 80% disability for hearing loss. He refuses to where his hearing aids. You blog is helping me understand and help him.
So glad it is helping you. I hope it will change his mind about the hearing aids or inspire him to seek alternative help. Thanks for reading!
I have this same question almost everyday. I can tell that I have to strain more to have a conversation without my aids on, but I often wonder just how many more words I’m understanding than if I didn’t wear them. Did you notice a change in your word recognition scores with the aids on?
Yes. There was improvement when I was tested with the aids on. Of course this was in the quiet of the testing booth, but I do think my hearing aids help me a lot with understanding speech. Thanks for the question.
I know I hear better. YES! Get rid of the background noise and I’d be set!
For sure! Thanks for your comment.
Today, I just happened to take off my aids while listening to NPR on the car radio. I know the volume setting is way loud, and, still, I wasn’t expecting to hear anything, but I just wanted to check..and we’ll, I wasnn’ t surprised. For 18 months, I have been writing Washington legislators telling them all the things I can not hear without my aids. I guess, I can add “radio at loud volume” to that list. Our letters seem to be having an impact – SB 5179 passed out of the Senate after navigating many a committee. We have just begun. We must still must push the bill through the house, yet, now, many more policy makers are aware of the inequity resulting from the high cost of hearing health care.
Excellent! Thanks for sharing this update and for all your work on this.
Yes, I really can tell the difference with my hearing aids in and almost panic if my batteries go down when in public. I do dislike my annual hearing exam, but appreciate knowing the results. I changed audiologist about 2 years ago and have been so happy that I did, but that is a really hard decision.
Glad it is working well for you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I also did a type of test – at home. I was listening to music on my computer. While the music was still playing, I picked up my smart phone and turned my hearing aids off. It sounded like a towel had been placed over the computer speaker! Things were muted, muffled. Words were harder to hear.
Then I turned the hearing aids back on. The clear crispness returned that I had evidently gotten used to. My ME5300 hearing aids really do make a difference!
Interesting test! Glad they are making a difference.
Will you ever consider getting cochlear implants?
So far my hearing aids are working for me but if things change I would consider it. Thanks for your comment.
I think I hear better without the both of them I only wear the left one they are to damn noisy and block out words I can’t hear people talking clearly it’s distorted
That is a shame. Have you discussed this with your audiologist? Perhaps a few tweaks are in order. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
So glad to hear that hearing aids have helped so many of you. I too have hearing loss. I just recently got a hearing test, confirming moderate hearing loss in my left ear & mild in my right. The tinnitus SUCKS! I don’t see my doctor for a few more weeks & I’m wondering if he’ll suggest hearing aids for me or if I should ask him about getting them, so, I was hoping to find an article like this, to give me hope that those who need the aids have had a good experience with them, that they truly do help, that’s a relief, because as we all know, this is scary. I guess my question(s) is, are they uncomfortable/take time to get used to or are they pretty comfortable? I’ve read of both behind the ear aids & in the ear aids, what kind do any of you prefer or have? Is there a “brand” that I should ask for? I really hope I can get some relief from all of this, it sure would be nice to hear people & my TV again 🙂 Thanks so much for this article Shari.
So glad you found our community! The hearing aids will definitely help you hear, and probably with the tinnitus as well. Be sure to mention that to the audiologist since some hearing aids have special tinnitus programs. They will definitely take some time to get used to — the brain needs to get used to hearing sounds again — but it is worth it. As to brand / style — that is really a personal decision based on which are most comfortable for you and which are best suited to your audiogram. Don’t be afraid to trial a few pairs to make sure you get the type you want. Best of luck to you!
Hearing aids can take some getting used to as your brain adapts to all the new sounds. It can be exhausting. Please check with your new audiologist to see if there are any adjustments that can be made to your hearing aids. Loud sounds can sometimes be better suppressed. Also, try building up the number of hours you wear them per day to give your brain a chance to adjust. Good luck to you and thank you for sharing your story.