Do Hearing Aids Damage Hearing Or Make It Worse?

Posted by: ENT & Sleep Specialists in Hearing on April 8, 2024

Young woman with hearing aid on light background

Are you wondering if hearing aids damage hearing? You are not alone. It’s a common question our doctors get asked. Let’s take a look at hearing aids and their impact on your body’s long term ability to hear.

Do Hearing Aids Damage Hearing: Background

First, it is important to understand the background on the auditory system and types of hearing loss.

Normal Hearing – How Does It Work?

The human auditory system is a complex structure that allows us to perceive and process sound vibrations. Starting at the outer ear, sound waves travel through the ear canal. Then, the sound waves reach the eardrum.

Once sound waves reach the eardrum, the eardrum vibrates in response. These vibrations are then transferred to the inner ear, where tiny hair cells in the cochlea convert them into electrical signals. 

Finally, the auditory nerve cells transmit these signals to the brain. This then enables us to interpret the sounds we hear.

Types Of Hearing Loss

Normal hearing is disrupted by different forms of hearing loss. There are several degrees and types of hearing loss, including sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, and age-related hearing loss

Sensorineural Hearing Loss 

This type of hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells in the cochlea or auditory nerve issues, while conductive hearing loss results from problems in the outer or middle ear that prevent sound from reaching the inner ear. 

Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis

Age related hearing loss is a common type of sensorineural hearing loss that occurs as a natural part of the aging process.The severity of hearing loss is categorized into different degrees, ranging from mild to profound

Do Hearing Aids Damage Hearing: Types Of Hearing Aids

From old hearing aids to new hearing aids, there are many products out there. You can get prescription hearing aids as well as hearing aid amplification over the counter. Let’s take a look at the best options when it comes to improving your trouble hearing

Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aids

This type rests behind the ear and is connected to a custom earpiece or earmold that fits inside the outer ear. BTE aids are suitable for various degrees of hearing loss and are generally easy to handle.

In-the-Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids

These hearing aids are custom-made to fit within the outer portion of the ear. ITE aids are less visible than BTE aids and may offer additional features depending on their size.

In-the-Canal (ITC) Hearing Aids

ITC hearing aids are smaller than ITE aids and fit partly or completely within the ear canal. They are less visible than BTE and ITE aids but may have fewer features due to their size.

Completely-in-Canal (CIC) Hearing Aids

CIC aids are the smallest type of hearing aid available, fitting entirely inside the ear canal. They are nearly invisible when worn and provide natural sound quality. However, they may not be suitable for individuals with severe hearing loss or dexterity issues.

Receiver-in-Canal (RIC) or Receiver-in-the-Ear (RITE) Hearing Aids

RIC or RITE aids have a small casing behind the ear that houses the electronics. A thin wire connects the casing to a receiver (speaker) inside the ear canal. This design allows for a more natural sound and reduces the occlusion effect (the sensation of hearing one’s voice more loudly when wearing hearing aids).

Invisible-in-Canal (IIC) Hearing Aids

IIC aids are custom-made to fit deep within the ear canal, making them virtually invisible when worn. They offer cosmetic benefits and may reduce wind noise. However, they may not be suitable for individuals with certain types of hearing loss or ear anatomy.

Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHA)

BAHA devices are surgically implanted behind the ear and directly stimulate the inner ear through bone conduction. They are suitable for individuals with conductive hearing loss, single-sided deafness, or certain types of mixed hearing loss.

Do Hearing Aids Damage Hearing: No

There is no concrete evidence to suggest that the proper use of hearing aids damages one’s hearing. In fact, they are designed to help alleviate the symptoms of various degrees and types of hearing loss, while also minimizing further hearing damage. 

Regular check-ups and discussions with a hearing healthcare professional can help ensure continued hearing health and the effective use of hearing aids.

Why Do People Think That They Could Damage Hearing?

By regulating and amplifying sound signals, hearing aids help users hear better. Although, in some situations, loud sounds can be amplified too much, causing discomfort and potentially further harm to the wearer’s hearing. 

However, modern hearing aids have been developed with advanced technology that prevents sound-induced hearing loss, making additional hearing damage unlikely.

Protecting the Inner Ear and Hair Cells

Hair cells are responsible for converting sound waves to electrical signals within the inner ear. Damage to these hair cells results in hearing loss and may be caused by prolonged exposure to loud sounds, aging, or disease. 

While wearing hearing aids, it is vital to ensure proper hearing protection. Loud noises, loud music, and sudden loud sounds can continue to cause harm to the inner ear and hair cells. It is essential to manage sound levels and ensure the hearing aids are not excessively amplifying volume when not necessary.

Benefits Of Hearing Aids On Quality Of Life

Hearing aids are designed to improve an individual’s hearing health and overall quality of life. They work by amplifying sounds, making them easier to hear and understand. This can reduce the risk of social isolation and improve mental health, as well as enhance communication and social interactions.

Hearing aid users may notice a new normal as they adapt to the devices and their amplified sound environment. It is important for patients to understand how hearing aids work, as well as their limitations, in order to effectively use them and improve their hearing experience.

In today’s world, with advanced noise processing aids and various types of hearing aids, patients can enjoy a fulfilling social life without the fear of further hearing damage. It’s essential to address any concerns or questions about hearing aid use promptly and to seek guidance from reliable sources such as the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, Mayo Clinic, or other reputable healthcare institutions in the United States.

Adjusting To Hearing Aids

Ultimately, hearing aids play a crucial role in improving communication, social interactions, and overall quality of life for those with hearing loss. With proper guidance, regular hearing tests, and adherence to safe listening practices, individuals can enjoy the benefits of improved hearing without compromising their long-term auditory health. 

It’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider, such as an experienced audiologist or primary care physician, to make informed decisions about the best hearing aid options available today. Additionally, considering factors such as trial periods, adjustment periods, and the cost of hearing aids can help individuals select the correct hearing aid for their specific hearing loss and lifestyle needs.

Safe Listening Practices

Using hearing aids should not damage your hearing when used correctly. It is crucial to follow safe listening practices to prevent further hearing loss:

Monitor sound levels: Be mindful of the volume on electronic devices like cell phones and remote controls. Keep volumes at safe listening levels to avoid causing a permanent threshold shift in your hearing.

Avoid loud noises: Loud environments can exacerbate hearing damage. If you must be in a noisy area, consider using noise-canceling technology to minimize harm to your hearing.

Limit use of earbuds and headphones: These devices can increase the risk of hearing damage when used at high volumes, especially with Bluetooth connectivity. Choose over-the-ear headphones and use them at moderate volumes to minimize risk.

Implement hearing protection: Wear earplugs or earmuffs when exposed to loud sounds, such as concerts or construction sites, to reduce the risk of further hearing damage.

Do Hearing Aids Damage Hearing: Summary

The concern over whether hearing aids damage hearing is a common one, but it’s important to understand the facts. Hearing aids are not designed to harm hearing; in fact, they are precisely engineered to improve hearing function and quality of life for individuals with hearing loss. Through a comprehensive analysis, we’ve explored the various types of hearing aids available and their benefits in addressing different degrees and types of hearing loss.

Moreover, modern hearing aids incorporate advanced technology to regulate and amplify sound signals safely, minimizing the risk of further hearing damage. While it’s true that improper use or excessive amplification of loud sounds could potentially cause discomfort, modern hearing aids are equipped with features to prevent sound-induced hearing loss.

Protecting the inner ear and hair cells is paramount for maintaining long-term hearing health. By practicing safe listening habits and following recommendations from experienced audiologists and other healthcare providers, individuals can mitigate the risk of additional hearing loss while maximizing the benefits of hearing aid use.

By staying informed and proactive about hearing health, individuals can make the best choices for themselves and their loved ones, ensuring a brighter future filled with clearer audio input and improved overall health and well-being.