Do hearing aids damage ears? Is the helping hurting in the long run?

Posted by bobbyboomer @bobbyboomer, Mon, Jul 15 9:42am

I had this discussion on the HLAA forum and got no satisfactory answer. The HLAA forum is pretty dead and on it's way out so I didn't get but one or two responses and they weren't conclusive. Also it is my fault because I don't think I explained myself clearly.

Please understand, I'm not trolling, I really want to know. If my logic is sound, I will only wear my aids when I need to instead of all day. I can't get along without them.

Let me divulge my logic (or lack of it):

1) I know that the sound level of 85dba ("A" weighted, slow response) for 8 hours per day permanently damages hearing. The DB scale is logarithmic function, each 3db is double the power of the one before. So at 91dbdba 2 hours of exposure damages permanently, at 100dba it's only 15 minutes, at 110dba it's mere seconds and at 120dba it's instant permanent damage. Logarithms are comparative ratios, adding the a suffix (dba) is referencing it against a standard, and is what all hearing tests use — db is a ratio and dba is a definite value.

2) Hearing aids amplify the frequencies you cannot hear as a reverse curve to your hearing loss audiogram

3) Say you have a 70 db loss in hearing at 3Khz (3,000 cycles per second), that means at 71 dba in a quiet hearing booth you can barely hear the faintest whisper of a 3khz tone. And like many of us, say your lower frequency hearing is either zero or around 6 dba. (note: most consonants are in the 2-4 khz range so this is where we understand speech)

4) Now say you are in a room that conversation level is around 75 dba, you will need about 75 db of the consonants to understand what the person across the table is saying to you. (Note: I have several sound level meters and 75db in a restaurant is average for one without loud background music.)

5) Since your hearing loss is at -70db, there is already 75dba of conversation in the room how high does your hearing aid have to amplify the 3khz sounds?

6) Do you have to take the 70db loss, add it to the 75dba conversation level in the room and amplify to an ear damaging 145dba? Remember, adding 70dba is your tiniest, softest, perception at the frequency in a quiet soundproof booth. So it seems 70dba wouldn't be enough. Hearing a whisper of a consonant in a 75dba room seems to me to be worthless.

So it seems to me that amplifying the ambient noise of the room above 85dba could slowly erode your hearing so you will need stronger and stronger hearing aids, which amply more and damage more, which means you will need stronger and stronger hearing aids, damaging more and more. etc. (feedback loop)

Or am I missing something?

If my thinking is faulty, please explain in detail and tell me why my logic is not logical.

Thanks,
Bob

@bobbyboomer

I found that my old ReSound Air aids had a maximum volume of 100dba. At 100dba you are allowed 15 minutes per day without causing permanent ear damage.

This is a cause of concern for me. I know that thy weren't blasting 100dba into my ears all the time, but in noisy environments it is quite possible they were.

I haven't been able to find specifications on Oticon OPN aids.That's what I'm wearing now. The technology is decades newer, but if they are putting out 100dba, it puts me in a dilemma. I need the aids to understand speech, but are they causing more of a dependence on the aids as the damage my hearing? Is there a limit to the damage?

Does anybody know where I can find the specs for the OPN aids? Oticon didn't answer my e-mail yet. Perhaps they will, perhaps they won't, if they do give me the information I'll post it here.

Bob

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Bob, it's a shame that the only time the consumer sees the specs on hearing aids is AFTER they are purchased. The user guide for my Resound Linx3d's do list technical specifications. Fortunately, we can google the specs to find out what they mean. You say that your hearing may have diminished due to the constant exposure to amplified sound. It's hard to know for sure. I was born with mild loss but am in the profound range now. I did not get a hearing aid until I was 20 and then 21 for my other ear. I only hope that the hearing aids did not contribute to the loss I now have.
Tony

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I started thinking about this because I've always been conscious about the sound level reaching my ears. If I can help it, nothing over 85dba gets in.

We need amplification to hear the things we can't hear anymore, and that's a good thing.

However, if the helping is hurting us in the long run, it isn't quite as good as it seems, now is it?

So far Oticon hasn't answered.

I did find this spec sheet, and if I read it right, they hearing aids might damage your ears. However I don't really know how to interpret the chart, I could be misreading it.

(right click and open in new tab will keep you from losing this page)
https://www.oticon.com/-/media/oticon-us/main/download-center/opn/product-information/179074us_td_opn1-2-3_minirite-minirite-t_105.pdf
It seems that if the full on gain is 72db and the source is 70dba than the output at that frequency would be142dba. But like I said, I'm not sure I'm interpreting that correctly.

If there is a hearing pro on this board, please tell me if I'm reading this right or wrong,

This might help, I'm going to dive into both charts more thoroughly

(right click and open in new tab will keep you from losing this page)
https://www.amperordirect.com/pc/help-hearing-aid/z-hearing-aid-specs.html
Bob

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@bobbyboomer

I started thinking about this because I've always been conscious about the sound level reaching my ears. If I can help it, nothing over 85dba gets in.

We need amplification to hear the things we can't hear anymore, and that's a good thing.

However, if the helping is hurting us in the long run, it isn't quite as good as it seems, now is it?

So far Oticon hasn't answered.

I did find this spec sheet, and if I read it right, they hearing aids might damage your ears. However I don't really know how to interpret the chart, I could be misreading it.

(right click and open in new tab will keep you from losing this page)
https://www.oticon.com/-/media/oticon-us/main/download-center/opn/product-information/179074us_td_opn1-2-3_minirite-minirite-t_105.pdf
It seems that if the full on gain is 72db and the source is 70dba than the output at that frequency would be142dba. But like I said, I'm not sure I'm interpreting that correctly.

If there is a hearing pro on this board, please tell me if I'm reading this right or wrong,

This might help, I'm going to dive into both charts more thoroughly

(right click and open in new tab will keep you from losing this page)
https://www.amperordirect.com/pc/help-hearing-aid/z-hearing-aid-specs.html
Bob

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Bob, one website that I've found useful is hearingtracker.com. There is a lot of information but the forum is a place to ask questions and get answers from audiologists. I would think they would be able to tell you if you're interpreting those dB charts correctly.

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@tonyinmi

Bob, it's a shame that the only time the consumer sees the specs on hearing aids is AFTER they are purchased. The user guide for my Resound Linx3d's do list technical specifications. Fortunately, we can google the specs to find out what they mean. You say that your hearing may have diminished due to the constant exposure to amplified sound. It's hard to know for sure. I was born with mild loss but am in the profound range now. I did not get a hearing aid until I was 20 and then 21 for my other ear. I only hope that the hearing aids did not contribute to the loss I now have.
Tony

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Most of the manufactures also have a profession website that is easy to find (and often linked from the consumer one) and you can usually find the technical specifications there.

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@bobbyboomer

I started thinking about this because I've always been conscious about the sound level reaching my ears. If I can help it, nothing over 85dba gets in.

We need amplification to hear the things we can't hear anymore, and that's a good thing.

However, if the helping is hurting us in the long run, it isn't quite as good as it seems, now is it?

So far Oticon hasn't answered.

I did find this spec sheet, and if I read it right, they hearing aids might damage your ears. However I don't really know how to interpret the chart, I could be misreading it.

(right click and open in new tab will keep you from losing this page)
https://www.oticon.com/-/media/oticon-us/main/download-center/opn/product-information/179074us_td_opn1-2-3_minirite-minirite-t_105.pdf
It seems that if the full on gain is 72db and the source is 70dba than the output at that frequency would be142dba. But like I said, I'm not sure I'm interpreting that correctly.

If there is a hearing pro on this board, please tell me if I'm reading this right or wrong,

This might help, I'm going to dive into both charts more thoroughly

(right click and open in new tab will keep you from losing this page)
https://www.amperordirect.com/pc/help-hearing-aid/z-hearing-aid-specs.html
Bob

Jump to this post

Assuming we are talking about modern digital aids (analog aids acted much like you suggest) then they will (should) be set up to amplify less when the incoming sound is louder. They also have a cut off threshold above which they will not go, your aid can't get to 142 dba, it can't.

Also, and this is where you need to talk to a knowledgeable Audiologist (I went through 6 trying to find the one I have now), the whole thing is a lot more complicated then just trying to add a reverse curve. Once sound reaches a threshold where we can hear it then, in general we hear as well (some suggest better then) normal. We may not understand, but that is due to issues other then volume. So in your example, with a 70 db loss and a 75 db conversation should be hearable, the loss is not a subtraction but a threshold. Now you may not be able to understand it but that is more likely a signal to noise issue, which is best solved with an assisted listening device.

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@bobbyboomer

I don't wear earbuds for that reason.

Do yourself a favor, get a Sound Pressure Level Meter, they are pretty inexpensive. I got a few at Radio Shack when they were still in business, I imagine Amazon and other outlets might have some for sale.

Set it on "A" weighting and slow response. A weighting approximates the range of frequencies a well functioning hear can hear, and slow response is more averaging as it eliminates short peaks and valleys.

Play music or TV with the meter on and get used to what 85db sounds like both with your aids in and out. Once you can judge that you can better guess whether you are listening too loud with your earbuds.

Of course I'm not a doctor nor am I giving medical advice, so take this as just friendly non-pro advice. It could be wrong.

Bob

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I use a free app called Decibel X to check sound levels and trends. It may not as accurate as a Sound Pressure Level Meter but it's handy. They have an upgrade version as well that I have not tried.

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@kethern

Assuming we are talking about modern digital aids (analog aids acted much like you suggest) then they will (should) be set up to amplify less when the incoming sound is louder. They also have a cut off threshold above which they will not go, your aid can't get to 142 dba, it can't.

Also, and this is where you need to talk to a knowledgeable Audiologist (I went through 6 trying to find the one I have now), the whole thing is a lot more complicated then just trying to add a reverse curve. Once sound reaches a threshold where we can hear it then, in general we hear as well (some suggest better then) normal. We may not understand, but that is due to issues other then volume. So in your example, with a 70 db loss and a 75 db conversation should be hearable, the loss is not a subtraction but a threshold. Now you may not be able to understand it but that is more likely a signal to noise issue, which is best solved with an assisted listening device.

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Replying to myself since I don't see away to edit posts

I should point out that I am talking about sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss is much closer to being subtractive, but since those really loud sounds don't reach the cochlea they won't cause damage.

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Hello everyone…hate to bust your bubble here but HEARING AIDS DO NOT contribute to hearing loss. That is misinformation and should not be passed along on this forum. Your hearing loss + hearing aids that don't seem to work well with your brain is because they aren't program appropriately. You may also be experiencing hyperacusis which is a highly debilitating hearing disorder characterized by an increased sensitivity to certain frequencies and volume ranges of sound (a collapsed tolerance to usual environmental sound). Working with your trained and certified audiologist (doctor of audiology – AuD or better) should help you with augmenting your hearing aids to account for what you can tolerate and not tolerate in hearing in your environments. Speak to your audiologist about what levels of sounds are too loud for you and which ones are too soft. They that the software of your hearing aids on their computers and can alter the levels to allow you have increase/decrease the volumes of your programs. The hearing aids learn by your environmental exposures how to adjust their thresholds by what the audiologist set in each program. These are the safety zones that the audiologist sets for those of us who experience the hyperacusis but still want to hear well in most places. Speak with your audiologist regarding these items – they will be answer you questions.

Liked by kethern

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I'm only asking, not making a statement, and I tried to make it clear.

My point is IF (and that's why I'm asking) the hearing aids have the ability to amplify my deficient frequencies louder than 85dba, what's the difference between that and putting my iPod or Walkman earbuds in louder than 85db?

So I haven't gotten a definitive answer for me yet. Like I said, I could be interpreting this all wrong – a little knowledge could be dangerous.

I'd like someone 'in the know' to answer specifically if I'm reading the specs wrong, and if so, why and how to read them correctly.

I do appreciate all the input.

Bob

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@nurseheadakes

Hello everyone…hate to bust your bubble here but HEARING AIDS DO NOT contribute to hearing loss. That is misinformation and should not be passed along on this forum. Your hearing loss + hearing aids that don't seem to work well with your brain is because they aren't program appropriately. You may also be experiencing hyperacusis which is a highly debilitating hearing disorder characterized by an increased sensitivity to certain frequencies and volume ranges of sound (a collapsed tolerance to usual environmental sound). Working with your trained and certified audiologist (doctor of audiology – AuD or better) should help you with augmenting your hearing aids to account for what you can tolerate and not tolerate in hearing in your environments. Speak to your audiologist about what levels of sounds are too loud for you and which ones are too soft. They that the software of your hearing aids on their computers and can alter the levels to allow you have increase/decrease the volumes of your programs. The hearing aids learn by your environmental exposures how to adjust their thresholds by what the audiologist set in each program. These are the safety zones that the audiologist sets for those of us who experience the hyperacusis but still want to hear well in most places. Speak with your audiologist regarding these items – they will be answer you questions.

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@nurseheadakes
Hi,
I agree with you in regards to the hearing aids damaging your hearing discussion. I stated something similar a few days ago because I also wondered about potential damage. I applaud anyone who asks questions and researches something that concerns them. However, we rarely get unanimous answers even from professionals and ultimately have to make up our own minds. It can be frustrating and sometimes there is no right answer.

Regards from FL Mary

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@imallears

@nurseheadakes
Hi,
I agree with you in regards to the hearing aids damaging your hearing discussion. I stated something similar a few days ago because I also wondered about potential damage. I applaud anyone who asks questions and researches something that concerns them. However, we rarely get unanimous answers even from professionals and ultimately have to make up our own minds. It can be frustrating and sometimes there is no right answer.

Regards from FL Mary

Jump to this post

What makes it more frustrating is most "professionals" have no clue how hearing loss affects you. Even if you tell them in great detail, they cannot imagine what you are going through. Like car salesmen, they just want to sell you a product.

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I wish there was an audiologist around here that has the same hearing problems as I have. There is no way for someone with great hearing to really understand what we need.

I'll keep digging trying to get facts about this. I do hope I'm interpreting it wrong. in the meantime I'll keep my 'ears' in and as usual stay away from noisy environments.

Bob

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@bobbyboomer

I wish there was an audiologist around here that has the same hearing problems as I have. There is no way for someone with great hearing to really understand what we need.

I'll keep digging trying to get facts about this. I do hope I'm interpreting it wrong. in the meantime I'll keep my 'ears' in and as usual stay away from noisy environments.

Bob

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Bob: Have really appreciated your thoughts and opinions on this blog! Hearing aids are a useful tool to me. But like any tool that is not properly used it has its own side effects. Your question is really thought provoking and I hope this conversation continues! I have 60db hearing loss at voice frequencies and never even thought that for me to hear a normal conversation I am amplifying much more than 60db in order to hear? Never really thought about this. I always thought that since my hearing was damaged that much that not much more could go wrong! It would appear that I need to be careful with what I have left! I think this is the point you are trying to get across and not blaming the audis or the HA manufacturers…just greater education on the subject. Thanks once again!
Scott

Liked by imallears

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I'm still searching and asking questions, but so far no definitive answers.

I do know that my old ReSound Air aids had the potential to harm ears with a max of 100dba. As far as I'm concerned, that's no difference from running an iPod at 100dba.

I hate to think what is providing me a way not to be so isolated from other people is causing damage that in the long run will make me even more isolated from other people.

So like I said earlier, until I get an answer, I'm staying away from noisy environments.

Bob

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One thing to remember is tat full on gain is what the aid is capable of, not what it will be programed to do, the only time that much amplification would be used is for some one with a profound loss (basically deaf) who is probably using it more for environmental awareness then speech understanding.

Up thread someone mention a site called hearing tracker, here is a conversation on this subject ( https://forum.hearingtracker.com/t/why-dont-hearing-aids-cause-damage-to-the-ears/16854 ), in particular you want to pay attention to posts by Um-bongo, he is an audiologist who explains things in great detail in that thread.

Liked by bobbyboomer

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