For anyone with hearing loss and/or hearing aids, the most challenging environment has to be a situation with a lot of background noise. Whether it’s a busy restaurant, a big family get together, or an exciting rugby match, hearing speech over background noise is never easy, even for people with normal hearing. Try these quick tips to hearing better in background noise
1) Look at the person you are trying to hear. When there is a complex sound environment, our brains need all the resources we have to understand what is being said. One of those is our vision- we use lip reading, gestures, and facial expressions to ‘fill in the gaps’ when we don’t hear every sound. Have that person face you also helps because you get a more directed sound.
2) Alter your environment (where possible). Having adequate lighting in the room and limited background music helps a lot. When in a restaurant, try to choose a table next to a wall or in a booth and seat yourself with the wall behind you- this limits the competing noise to that which is coming from your front. When dining with a big group, try to sit where you can see everyone at the table.
3) Change to a directional program on your hearing aids (if you have them). Directional programs focus the microphones in the direction that you are facing, and reduces gain for sounds on your sides and behind you. This allows you to hear the person you are looking at more clearly. Ask an audiologist about the best way to access a program like this on your hearing aids- some can even do it automatically.
4) Use a remote microphone or Personal Listening Device. You may be able to purchase an accessory that functions as a remote microphone. This means that you can give the device to your communication partner, and after they clip it onto their collar their voice will be picked up by the microphone and streamed straight into your hearing aids, cutting out the background noise. Made for iPhone hearing aids can even use your iPhone as a remote microphone. Personal Listening Devices can even be used with headphones if you do not have hearing aids. Talk to your audiologist about the options for your ears.
Even using all of the tips above, hearing speech in background noise is not easy. Have you found any techniques that work well? Comment below to share or ask a question.