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Improving Phone Communication

One of the top areas of communication many of our patients are wanting to improve is better communication on the phone. Phone calls are one of the most difficult listening situations for individuals with hearing loss — there’s no opportunity to read lips, the signal is not always clear/consistent, and there are fewer contextual cues compared to face-to-face communication. Even with properly fit hearing aids, many patients continue to experience difficulty on the phone. Here are a few helpful tips for improving speech understanding over the phone while wearing hearing aids:

  1. Place the speaker of the phone directly on the hearing aid microphones. This allows the audio from the phone call to be processed through the hearing aids and amplified. If the phone is held to the ear in a typical fashion, the hearing aid may be acting as an earplug, making phone calls even more difficult. 

 2. Enable Bluetooth streaming for phone calls (if available). By streaming phone calls through the hearing aids, our brain is able to process the incoming speech information with two ears, thus allowing more opportunity for accurate speech understanding. 

3. Ask your communication partner to slow down and speak naturally. Slowing down rate of speech while continuing to speak in a natural manner is more beneficial than over-enunciating and raising the volume. 

Phone calls can take practice and patience. Reach out to your hearing care provider if you need further strategies or technology to improve phone communication.

Why is Hearing in Noise So Difficult?

One of the most commonly reported challenges people face with their hearing is understanding speech in background noise. Noise can vary depending on the environment. Sometimes it might be multiple people talking at once, like at a party. It may also be ambient noise such as music from a speaker or dishes clanking at a restaurant. Regardless of the type of sound, extra background noise makes it more difficult to understand conversations with others.

Many people don’t realize that a lot of our hearing ability comes not just from what the ears pick up, but how our brain processes the sound information from our ears. Hearing in noisy places is more challenging for a couple of reasons:

  • Audibility – we have to be able to hear all the sounds of speech in order to easily understand it. Extra noise can overpower soft speech sounds.
  • Focus – noisy environments tend to be busier. If there are distractions present, it decreases our ability to concentrate as effectively as we can in quiet.
  • Memory – in order to understand speech, our brain has to process sound and remember the information. Busier environments compete for the brain’s attention in focusing and remembering speech.

The good news is that hearing devices can address the concerns listed above and make it easier to understand in noisy places. Although in most cases it is not possible to completely eliminate all background noise, hearing devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants can make a big improvement in speech understanding, both in quiet and in noise.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can optimize your hearing in noisy environments, contact our office at 904-399-0350 to schedule a hearing evaluation.

Hearing with Two Ears

Our bodies are designed with two ears for many important reasons. Listening with two ears:

  • Leads to better understanding in background noise
  • Allows for improved ability to detect where sound is coming from and
  • Gives speech a “boost” in volume

In addition, listening with two ears lessens the amount of work it takes the brain to understand speech and can lead to an improved quality of life. 

For people whose hearing loss is severe, two hearing aids may not be very helpful. However, research, anecdotal evidence and experience tells us that using a hearing aid in one ear and a cochlear implant in the other ear can improve clarity of speech, even more so than using just one cochlear implant. 

This has been demonstrated over and over to the point where two cochlear implant companies have partnered with hearing aid companies to create compatibility between the cochlear implant and hearing aid. This not only leads to the great benefits discussed above but also allows streaming of phone calls and other media to both ears at the same and easier access to program or volume changes.

To learn more about your hearing aid and/or cochlear implant options, give our office a call at 904-399-0350 for a hearing evaluation.