Patients being fitted for a hearing aid in order to hear better often ask what the hearing aid will do with sounds which are still too loud for them. Thankfully there’s a comforting answer to this specific question.
The simple answer is that present-day hearing aids will not increase sounds which are already too loud and make them even louder, thus possibly harming the wearer’s hearing even more, so long as they’re correctly fitted and adjusted. The key phrase in bold type is the reason why you should seek the help of a hearing aid specialist.
The more complex answer has to do with the nature of modern digital hearing aids themselves, and how they work.
Digital hearing aids work by transforming sounds into data. The data which encodes the sounds is then processed in the hearing aid’s microchip before the amplified sound is delivered to your ears. These hearing aids are programmable, which means that not only can the maximum volume permitted be adjusted to suit your individual tastes, the actual qualities of the sounds can also be adjusted. If you have primarily high-frequency hearing loss, for example, we might program the hearing aid to amplify those sounds while reducing the volume of lower-frequency sounds. This preference can be reversed, of course, if you suffer from primarily low-frequency hearing loss.
Digital hearing aids also have the ability to filter sounds so that you can hear and understand them better. Background noise can be detected and reduced in volume, while voices in the foreground can be detected and amplified so you can hear them more easily. These digital hearing aids can even adjust dynamically to volume fluctuations such as a musician beginning a song very softly and then increasing the volume. Directional microphones assist this process by detecting the direction of sounds. They allow sounds from the direction you are facing while suppressing sounds from the side and behind.
One thing that hearing aids do not do with regard to loud sounds is protect your ears from them the way that ear plugs would. Noise-induced hearing loss can still be caused by loud sounds such as chainsaws or overly amplified rock concerts. But in most situations your properly fitted and programmed hearing aid should handle most of the range of sounds you’re likely to encounter.