Using a remote microphone to improve hearing aid performance

In Nanaimo News Bulletin articles over recent months, Hanan Merrill from Nanaimo Hearing Clinic has explained the challenges of hearing speech in a crowded environment with lots of background noise.

“It’s a common frustration of many people who wear hearing aids. There’s no quick, easy fix, but there are tools and adjustments we can make to improve your hearing in these situations,” he says.

It takes some trial and error, patience and expert guidance, but you can improve your hearing.

“None of these methods will work perfectly for all people in all situations, but together we can figure out which strategy will make the biggest difference for your listening needs,” Hanan says.

The benefits and drawbacks of a remote microphone

Hanan often gets asked why inexpensive noise cancelling headphones are able to block out background noise so effectively, while expensive hearing aids struggle. In a previous article he explained that noise cancelling headphones are balancing two ‘pipes’ of sound (the audio from the world around you, and the audio from the music or movie you’re piping in), while hearing aids must try to separate speech from background noise within a single pipe of sound — a much more difficult task.

“Using a remote microphone with your hearing aids helps to create two pipes of sound. If you give the device to the person speaking, their voice gets streamed directly into your hearing aids. Then we can minimize background sounds so it’s easier to follow the conversation.”

Hanan says it will never be as good as noise-cancelling headphones, but it can be a lot better than regular hearing aids.

“Admittedly, it’s a little awkward to ask your spouse to wear this microphone, or to pass the microphone around the table when chatting with friends. But I have to ask the question: how badly do you want to hear in those situations? Are you willing to put up with a little bit of social discomfort in order to dramatically improve your communication?”

Zero-cost hearing aid tips

Modifying your environment can also make a dramatic difference in your hearing.

“Think about the restaurants you go to. Ask your friends, ‘Can we try going to a restaurant that’s a little quieter? My ears and brain have a really hard time separating what I want to hear from the sounds I don’t want to hear,’” Hanan suggests.

Choose a table with good lighting so it’s easier to catch visual communication cues. If you’re wearing hearing aids in ‘focused mode,’ try sitting with your back to the noisiest area.

“Ask your friends to get your attention by name, before launching into a story. That gives your brain time to switch gears and focus on their voice,” Hanan says.

For more hearing tips, book an appointment with Nanaimo Hearing Clinic by calling 250-585-4100 or visit Find Nanaimo Hearing Clinic at 501-5800 Turner Rd. in Cactus Club Plaza, Nanaimo.

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