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Audiologists at the Vancouver Hearing Centre specialize in hearing loss management, hearing conservation, and aural (re)habilitation. We serve children and adults of all ages in the Vancouver area and from around British Columbia, Canada.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hearing Protection with Hearing Loss

Hearing protection is still absolutely needed if you have hearing loss.  To help prevent further hearing loss it is extra important that hearing protection is worn when in noisy environments for extended periods of time.  This issue is complicated if you are wearing hearing aids to help you hear better.  There are many things to consider when choosing the best option for you. For example, issues associated with various hearing aid/protector combinations are noted below.  These will shed light on the best solutions.

Wearing hearing aids turned OFF and kept in the ears as a noise blocker is NOT sufficient to protect your ears from further hearing loss.  The piece in the ear can not effectively block all the sound out because it typically has holes in it for venting and fits less snuggly than a regular plug.  This makes it a poor hearing protector even when the instrument is turned off.

Wearing a hearing aid turned OFF and ear muff hearing protection on top of hearing aid is also probably not the best option either.  Although sound is attenuated from both the muffs and the hearing aids, the combination of the two could block out too much sound for a hearing impaired individual. One may not hear warning signals or other essential sounds and this would be hazardous.

Wearing a hearing aid turned ON with no hearing protection on is probably the poorest option here. If the noise in an environment is loud enough for a certain period of time to permanently damage hearing, amplifying the noise with a hearing aid could cause more hearing loss.

Wearing a hearing aid turned ON and wearing hearing protection overtop is unlikely to be effective as well as sound will be muffled and feedback will likely occur.  Ear muffs are typically Class A protectors and cause too much attentuation.  If Class B protectors, which are not as strong, were worn hearing would be easier and the hearing aid is unnecessary since it would be easier to hear.  Also, perspiration under ear muffs can be a problem and can damage hearing aid electronics.

Therefore, solutions to problems with hearing protection in noisy environments for hearing impaired individuals are needed.  Some options are listed below.  Please discuss these options with your audiologist to determine which would best serve your needs:

Use Class B earplugs or muffs since they don't attentuate sounds as much making it easier to communicate in these environments and hear warning signals.

Use vented custom molded earplugs for these same reasons as noted above.

Use communication headsets for radio communication with earplugs or earmuffs.

Use electronic hearing protection which amplify sound a bit but not to a hazardous level.

*adapted from WSBC

Blogger:  Sarah Helmel, AuD, RAUD, Registered Audiologist