This is a question that we hear a lot. The short answer is: definitely not, as long as they’ve been properly programmed for your specific hearing loss. In fact, using hearing aids has been proven to actually keep your hearing abilities sharper and delay the natural progression of hearing loss over time. So why does this question come up so often?
It’s a trick of perception.
After wearing hearing aids for a few weeks, some people express concern that they can’t hear as well without their devices as they could before they ever started using them. In reality, though, the misconception occurs because their brains are tricking them.
On average, a person experiencing hearing loss waits seven to ten years before seeking help from a hearing healthcare professional. It’s common (and likely) that their hearing ability will gradually worsen throughout that period of time. As a result, the brain gets more and more accustomed to hearing loss and begins to perceive their level of hearing ability as “normal.”
When you begin wearing hearing aids, the volume and clarity of sounds can seem jarring for the first few weeks. This happens because your brain is readjusting and learning to recognize a new “normal” level of hearing ability. Once that happens, your hearing loss becomes much more noticeable when you aren’t using hearing devices. You might find that without your devices, sounds seem drastically muted…because they are!
This process is similar to your eyes’ ability to adjust to darkness or light. When you’ve been in a dark room for a while, it’s possible to see shapes and maybe even some shades of color. If you then turn the lights on, it seems too bright because your eyes need to adjust. Once they do, everything becomes much more clear and full of life. When you turn the lights back off, you can’t see those shapes and shades of colors anymore. Did your vision suddenly become worse because of the exposure to light? No, but now it’s clear just how limited your eyes had been in the dark.
A good fitting makes all the difference.
Other people express concerns that hearing aids are dangerous for your eardrums. However, this isn’t the case if the devices are fit and programmed correctly.
Hearing aids work by amplifying and processing sounds so you can hear them more easily. It’s true that powerful sounds played directly next to your eardrum can damage your ears and your hearing (such as loud music played through headphones). However, if you have hearing loss, the volume of well-fit hearing aids won’t be loud enough to do harm.
When an experienced hearing healthcare professional fits you for a hearing aid, they’ll program the device to fit your personal level of hearing loss. This means the level of amplification and sound processing will be just enough to allow you to hear as naturally as possible.
If, after your rehabilitation period, your hearing aids seem like they’re too loud, you should go back to your hearing professional to have them adjusted. If the devices are programmed to amplify frequencies you can already hear well, this could pose a danger in the long run. (Children with hearing loss may not know enough to speak up if their devices seem too loud. It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on the way they interact with hearing devices to make sure that they don’t need reprogramming.)
There are specific instances when improperly-fit hearing aids can pose a danger to your hearing. If they’re set to be louder than they need to be in order to compensate for your specific hearing loss, then the sound levels can cause noise damage. This can happen more often in hearing aids bought online. Even if you send an online retailer your audiogram results and they make adjustments based on that information, there’s no substitute for an experienced professional programming them with you in person.
It’s also important to note that personal sound amplifiers (PSAPs), like those found in drug stores or advertised in magazines, are not meant to be used to help with hearing loss. They are meant to help people without hearing loss hear very quiet noises better (like a hunter listening for a deer) and are not substitutes for hearing aids. These types of devices may, in fact, pose a danger to your hearing by being too loud for your needs.
Hearing aids are not only safe, they’re life-changing. Take the first step toward being fully engaged in the world around you by using our locator tool to find a trusted, experienced hearing healthcare provider.