You’ve taken your audiologist’s advice and now use a hearing device. Although you’re delighted that it is so much easier to listen to conversation, being aware of background noise again is distracting and intrusive. The latter is hardly surprising because your hearing loss meant you haven’t heard traffic and other noises for quite some time, so having it suddenly reappear is often an unwelcome surprise.

Be assured, you will re-learn the art of ‘tuning out’ and, with time, you will be able to ignore noise pollution. But if this is a concern for you in the meantime, then talk to your audiologist about your hearing aid and steps to reduce the impact of background noise.

Here are some tips to get you started:

#1: Seek help early: Seeking help early, before your hearing loss becomes severe, helps you retain the ability to ignore background noise. If you delay visiting the audiologist, much like forgetting a foreign language, the brain forgets how to tune out extraneous noises.

#2: Directional hearing aids: Consider asking your audiologist about a directional hearing device. These have two microphones which adapt to pick up sounds directly ahead of you, where a person holding a conversation would stand, rather sounds from all around.

Newer devices are intuitive and can detect someone speaking and automatically switch into front microphone mode, so you don’t even have to worry about flipping a switch because the technology does it for you.

#3: Digital signal processing: This technology is already improving the quality of hearing for so many users and is a promising area for future research and development. Digital signal processing (DSP) works by recognizing the difference between spoken sounds and noise. The device then turns down the volume on the intrusive noise, leaving the spoken sound to come through loud and clear. People who use DSP hearing devices report feeling less stressed in public situations because the unwanted noise is diminished.

#4: Two hearing aids: We have two ears in order to pinpoint where a sound is coming from. This is the basis for a strong argument that two hearing aids are better than one. Not only do you have sound amplification in both ears, but it helps you locate from where the noise originates and  focus in more effectively, which improves your ability to listen to and understand speech.

#5: Auditory training: If background noise and speech start blurring together, then it’s helpful to relearn how to separate them. This can be done through auditory training; your audiologist can suggest a good learning program. These often come as a CD-ROM or digital download to play via your home computer. These offer training in different aspects of hearing, including listening to speech in the presence of background noise.

Seeking help early preserves more of your listening skills, but if you’ve left things a while, your audiologist is the best place to start for recommendations and help.