Noise Reduction in Hearing Aids

Elderly friends together at a restaurant, an environment where noise reduction in hearing aids can help

Conversations in crowded areas can be difficult to follow as speech sounds soft and muffled. It’s even more difficult for people who experience hearing loss as they battle with sound clarity in the presence of noise. Environmental noises can be made up of desired noise like music, and undesired noise like tires screeching. Human ears take in all the different types of noises around them, regardless of the noise being desired or undesired, while trying to focus on conversation with other people at the same time. Environmental noise has an adverse effect on communication skills as it can be difficult to follow conversations, and this could lead to frustration and other negative emotions for a person with hearing loss. These individuals eventually choose not to visit places where they have to constantly compete with background noise to hear conversational speech. Luckily, hearing aids could assist these individuals and sound advice from a hearing healthcare professional regarding noise reduction options is extremely important.

Your hearing healthcare professional will be able to advise you on a particular type of hearing aid that comes with built-in features that will allow for improved speech perception while blocking out background noise. Certain hearing aids have a feature called “noise reduction” which essentially decreases the volume of loud noises in the environment, which in turn allows the hearing aid user to hear speech sounds more clearly. Modern hearing aids have an automatic system that lowers the volume in the presence of loud noises and then increases the volume if there is soft speech present. This clever feature allows the hearing aid user to have the best outcomes in different listening environments, without the individual changing hearing aid settings themselves.

The mechanism behind noise reduction is “modulation-based systems”. The system analyses different noise and speech levels in the environment. The signals of noise and speech differ greatly, making it possible for the noise reduction system to detect noise from speech, and alter the overall output as needed. If the system detects loud noise and speech signals, it will automatically decrease the volume of the noise to allow for better speech understanding. If the system detects a loud noise and no speech signals, it will lower the volume so the loud noise is at a comfortable level for the hearing aid user. The noise reduction system is programmed to adjust itself at different frequency bands, where frequencies that have loud noises are turned down and frequencies that represent speech are turned up. This noise reduction technology allows hearing aid users to easily communicate effectively with their conversational partners.

Hearing aid technology has advanced significantly over the years, and noise reduction has become more refined over time in order for the hearing aid user to get the best outcomes in various listening environments. Newer hearing aids have a number of different channels or bands that function for different noise and speech frequencies, therefore, allowing for the noise reduction system to work separately within each channel. This allows for more specific noise reduction where noise channels are reduced and speech channels are not compromised. One should remember that the noise reduction feature in hearing aids decreases the volume of noise to make it more comfortable for the user, however it does not make speech sounds more clear. Another factor to consider is the use of two hearing aids instead of one, to assist with listening fatigue and strain. Both hearing aids will have the noise reduction feature and will work in conjunction with each other to reduce noise, therefore, making your listening experience a more positive one, instead of just one hearing aid doing the work to block out the background noise.

Individuals who will benefit from noise reduction technology in their hearing aids include:

  •  Those who are working in noisy environments
  • Those who attend social gatherings often
  • Children who attend school
  • Youth who attend tertiary institutions
  • Individuals who attend religious gatherings
  • People who find that the majority of their time is spent battling to hear speech in noise

When choosing a device that will assist with hearing loss, always ask advice from a hearing healthcare professional as there are devices on the market, namely an amplifier, which does not allow for a range of features such as noise reduction technology. Amplifiers merely make all sounds louder, and this will not assist in noisy environments when it is essential to hear what the speaker is saying. Hearing aids have noise reduction technology built-in and this is one of the features that separate hearing aids from amplifiers. Having the noise reduction feature in a hearing aid provides a better overall experience for the user, as it reduces listening fatigue. Listening to noises at a comfortable level and having better speech signals allows the individual to be more involved in the conversation, leaving them feeling more connected to the people around them.

The Lexie Hearing Solution:

As explained above, environmental sounds and other noises can interfere with how well speech is transmitted through the hearing aid to the ear. Lexie Lumen hearing aids luckily have smart noise reduction technology to minimize the impact of the noises around you. Assisting the noise reduction functionality the Lexie Lumens also offer wind noise management to improve your outdoor experience as well as feedback management to decrease the feedback and squealing sound sometimes found in hearing aids. Learn more about the features of the Lexie Lumen hearing aids here.

Hearing expert and article author Faatima

Written byFaatima Nakhooda

Masters in Audiology

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