by: Dr. Arthur Zinaman
Background noise, ambient noise, reverberation, many conversations at once, chatter, babble, murmur… whatever you wish to label it, competing sound interferes with the clarity and understanding speech. Most people experience this occurring in busy restaurants, parties, gatherings, and other social situations where there is a crowd.
Here is the typical scenario; you’re out to dinner at a busy restaurant where you meet friends. You are looking forward to dining on tasty food and to catch up on everyone’s lives. But instead of enjoying yourself eating and conversing, you’re getting frustrated because you can’t hear the conversations clearly. You find it is difficult to follow the conversations; the dull noise in the restaurant is simply overwhelming to the point where conversing for you is near impossible. Toward the end of the dinner, all you want to do is go home and get away from the noise. Sound familiar?
For people with hearing loss this situation is common and very distressing. Many of my patients tell me that their hearing loss is most noticeable by others when in noisy places, stating that understanding speech is difficult. “What? Huh? Would you please repeat that? Sorry? Again please. This is because loud noise has a negative effect on hearing speech accurately and clearly.
Background noise can affect people in two ways. First, background ‘clutter’ can make it very difficult to understand conversation because the ‘clutter’ is louder than the speech you want to hear. Second, ambient noise presents problems hearing clearly because it distracts you from the speaker.
So, what can be done? There have been many advances in hearing aid technology to help resolve the problems associated with background noise. Valuable work in research and development has improved hearing devices and advanced the effectiveness of hearing aids in numerous acoustic environments. Hearing aids work to analyze sounds coming into the microphones; noise and speech are ‘separated’ and processed differently so that the speech is amplified while the background noise is not enhanced or amplified.
Many hearing aid users say that the ability to hear well, with accompanying loud noise is challenging. The ability to hear clearly through the unwanted sound does get better with time. As the auditory system becomes acclimated to hearing aids, the ‘strangeness’ or ‘newness’ of the hearing instruments decreases, and better speech understanding increases
Options below can help lessen problems hearing with ambient noises:
Here are some useful tips that I’ve gathered from patients who are experienced hearing aids wearers and how they manage noise. You may find some of these helpful.