Hearing Aids -- Don't they make the problem worse?

This has been bugging me for 40 years, so fight the ignorance with some witty snark.

My Mom’s got hearing problems, so she’s got hearing aids to help with her hear better.

However, a hearing aid is for amplifying sound, right? Wouldn’t the louder sound in the long-term increase the risk of increased hearing damage/deafness?

My sister has like 70% hearing loss. Mostly in the mid to high ranges. Old style aides that just amplify can make it worse since to make the higher end audible, the lower end gets REALLY loud. But her newer style aides are bluetooth enabled which allows quite a bit of sound processing. It actually takes raw sound, then readjusts the tone and power distribution to the ranges she can hear better at. She describes female voices (whom she had the most trouble hearing) as sounding like autobots, but CLEAR autobots. Without nearly as much fatigue after a day.

Please don’t ask us to do that, MODS: won’t allow it.

“Bu…bu…but I asked you to.”

MODS: won’t allow it. Because we’re not supposed to. Posters have started this theme wherein, they don’t get something and demand we abuse them to edify them. This helps nobody.

As was stated above, modern ones don’t work that way. For a long time, they’ve been designed tune-able – the doctor would test what frequencies were better or worse for a patient, and prescribe a hearing aid designed to amplify more for the appropriate frequencies, and less for others. Technology got better and better until we’ve gotten to very advanced ones today. And we’ve applied that technology to noise canceling headphones for everyone else.

Even the bare standard amplifying hearing aid had a volume control. Except for inner ear failure, people can hear something, they just want to hear more, so these devices had a volume control, so they could carry on a conversation with a soft voiced person, hear the tea kettle, and the like.

If a car backfires outside my window, my ears will ring. I wouldn’t want that amplified, that would damage my ears even more. But if they’re already not working well anyway…

One factor is how loud the sound is going into your ears, and for how long. OSHA sets standards for occupational noise exposure:

As a point of reference, I’ve previously measured my lawn mower at 85 dB (with the meter near my head).

You can safely expose someone to louder noises, but only for shorter durations. At some point the relationship falls apart: the sound level from a gunshot (~130 dB or more) causes immediate, permanent hearing damage even though it’s extremely short.

So maybe someone’s hearing aid is amping up normal conversation to 95 dB, or even 100 dB - but it’s OK because the conversation only lasts for ten minutes, not four hours. And even then, conversation is not a constant roar of noise like factory machinery, it includes silent pauses and gaps. If a hearing-impaired person is going to be lingering in a very noisy environment, they can turn their hearing aids down/off, or employ a feature that limits the amplification to safe levels.

How awesome would it be to live in a world where everyone sounds like Optimus Prime?

“Nice to see you, Carol! How are the kids?”
"One shall stand, one shall fall."

What did they say about bogarting? :smiley:

[nitpick] I think you mean digital, not bluetooth enabled. [/nitpick]

Nope, I meant blue tooth enabled, but also digital. They connect to her phone.

The way you wrote it implied (heavily) that being bluetooth enabled was the reason the sound processing is possible.

“But her newer style aides are bluetooth enabled which allows quite a bit of sound processing.”

I was probably drunk and didn’t articulate my entire thought. Yes, they do a bit of processing on their own, but ALSO they are bluetooth enabled and connect to her phone where she has an app to make adjustments.

The point is to bring the sound up enough so the patient can hear (more or less) as a person with normal hearing would. I say “more or less” because even with hearing aids tuned to fit my losses at various frequencies, there are things I just don’t hear.

I don’t think the OP has been addressed. Most hearing loss (if I have understood correctly) is the result of damage to the hair cells and it seems entirely plausible to me that, as suggested in the OP, hearing aids by turning up the volume will exacerbate that problem. But that is just my guess and I would like to see an expert opinion.

IANAE, but as I understand the nature of hearing damage, it will depend on how loud you make it and for how long. Per my earlier post, amplifying a conversation to 90 dB for a little while is not likely to be a problem, but amplifying ambient noise to 100 dB all day long probably will do damage.