Overprocessing: The problems with Telephones, TVs and Hearing Aids

One of the most common complaints that Audiologists get is that hearing aids do not help with the TV or the telephone. A lot of the time this has to do with sound being processed too much – being sent out from a speaker in the phone or at the TV, picked up by the hearing aids microphones, being processed again, and being released by another speaker in your hearing aid, causing the sound to become distorted and unclear. People often ask us what can be done to try and improve your ability to hear these crucial sounds, and there are some strategies that can be tried, with consideration of other factors making it even more challenging.

On the Telephone:

When a person without a hearing aid uses the telephone, the speaker is placed tightly against the opening of the ear, allowing the sound to travel directly into the ear canal. Unless there is a bad line, a problematic speaker, or an unidentified hearing loss, the person should be able to hear clearly. When a person is wearing a hearing aid, the ear is often blocked by the aid itself, so holding the phone as one usually would might make the sound seem worse instead of better! There is also the added complication of feedback that often occurs as a result of holding something too close to the hearing aid. Unfortunately for some there is no alternative but the last resort- to remove the hearing aid- but there are some tricks to try before resigning to this.

Positioning the Phone: Hold the telephones receiver in line with the microphones on the hearing aids- they usually sit at the top of the aid, not inside the ear. Also angle the handset so that the phone does not rest directly against the hearing aid.

Hearing Aid Settings: Some hearing aids can be set up with a specific telephone program- with an easy push of a button or connection with a magnet the sound can be adjusted to be more suitable for telephone use. Speak to your audiologist about whether this might be an option for you.

Special Telephones: Amplifying telephones are cost effective, and they allow you to adjust the volume of the telephone for each call. The can also often be used on speaker phone mode, which eliminates the need for the handset to be too close to the hearing aid. You can also get telephones that have a feature called Telecoil, which can be directly connected to some hearing aids to get a clearer sound.

Bluetooth connectivity: New hearing aids these days have the ability to be connected to your cellphone or even your landline using Bluetooth devices- some can even be connected to specific phones directly. These give the best possible sound signal for talking on the phone, but do require a bit of an investment, and take a little bit of tech-savvy.

When Watching Television:

There are many factors that contribute to poor TV Hearing, and the biggest of all is accents. Listening to anyone with an accent that is different to your home accent, especially with a hearing aid, increases the understanding difficulty substantially. This is made even more difficult by the very common inclusion of background music, multiple speakers, rapid delivery of speech, and the very popular mumble, made famous by Marlon Brando. Another huge frustration is that certain programs or adverts are louder than others. So how do we try to overcome all of these challenges?

Control the Volume: Of course, there is always the option to turn the volume up on the television. This sometimes works but can create a lot of extra stress and conflict in the household and even in the neighbourhood if the TV is loud enough! The better option would be to control the volume on your hearing aids, either with buttons on the aids or by using a remote control or Smartphone App. Talk to your audiologist about making sure that you have the facility to adjust the volume of your hearing aids if you need to.

Manage the Distance: When we watch the TV, we rarely sit right on top of the screen or the speaker! Creating distance between the sound source and the hearing aids will always increase the difficulty.
There is a way to reduce the distance without moving the TV or your seat- using a TV listener, headphones, or a Bluetooth Streamer with cause the sound to be transmitted directly to your ears. For those using hearing aids it is always best to consult with an audiologist before purchasing a device like this, to make sure that it will be suitable for your hearing loss and your hearing aids.

With the development of new technology it is possible to hear better when talking on the phone, or when watching the TV- speak to an Audiologist about the possibilities for your unique needs.

Copyright: Francis Slabber & Associates 2017

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