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?