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Can Hearing Aids Damage Hearing?

an older woman about to place a hearing aid in her ear

A common question and concern about hearing aids are whether your hearing loss will worsen once you start to wear them. People wonder if hearing aids cause hearing loss, and you might hear people say that after a few weeks of wearing hearing aids, they seem to find hearing without their devices more difficult than they did before they had them. However, this is actually down to perception because actually, wearing hearing aids has been proven to keep your hearing abilities sharper and delay the natural progression of hearing loss over time. So why do people think that hearing aids can damage your hearing? 

It actually makes sense that after a couple of weeks of wearing hearing aids, you get used to how well you can hear with them. Then you take them out, and first of all, the difference the hearing aids have made makes it seem like your own natural hearing has got worse, but also, it's easy to forget how bad your hearing was before. It is simply a misconception and your brain is tricking you. 

There's also the point that hearing loss happens gradually over time, and on average, people wait seven to ten years before they seek help from a hearing healthcare professional. During this time their hearing will have gradually worsened and the brain will have become more accustomed to hearing loss. It then begins to perceive your level of hearing ability as normal – so you don't realize that it's not.

When you start to wear hearing aids, your brain has to readjust to the new levels of sound and recognize this as normal. At first, the volume and clarity of sounds can seem jarring, but once your brain has adjusted, and then you take your hearing aids out, your hearing loss becomes much more noticeable. 

Do you know what it's like when you have been in a dark room for a while, and your eyes adjust to the light, and you can see things, even if it's just shapes and colors? Then when you come out of the dark room or turn the light on, it seems too bright because your eyes need time to adjust. But once they do, everything becomes much clearer. However, when you turn the lights back off again, you can no longer see those shapes and colors anymore. Your vision hasn't suddenly become worse, but your brain and your eyes have just taken time to adjust, and this is the same process as your ears and your hearing aids. 

A good fitting can really help

Many people also worry that hearing aids are dangerous for your eardrums. This is not the case, but you do need to make sure that the devices are fitted and programmed correctly. While you may be tempted to order devices online or try to purchase a pair used, this is typically ineffective and can be damaging to your hearing. Improperly fitted hearing aids can irritate your ear canal and cause sores, dry skin or even excessive earwax. Poor settings can amplify sounds too much and can cause additional hearing loss, or, if set too low, can cause your hearing to worsen. To benefit from hearing aids, it’s essential you find the right professional to assess your needs, recommend the right styles, features and program them correctly. Finding the right pair of hearing aids is your ticket to not only better hearing, but to preventing further loss.

Also, once you have hearing aids, it doesn't mean that you can stop caring for your ears. You still need to be careful and protect your ears from loud noises, which can damage your eardrum. 

An experienced audiologist will fit your hearing aids for you and should program them so that they fit your personal level of hearing loss. Once you have been wearing your hearing aids for a few weeks and you're still not comfortable or find they're too loud or not loud enough, then you should go back to your audiologist to have them adjusted. If your hearing aids are set to be louder than they need to be in order to compensate for your specific hearing loss, then theses sound levels can cause noise damage. This often happens when people have bought their hearing aids online, so it really is important to go and see a hearing health professional. 

When fit properly and by a professional, hearing aids are not only safe, but they're also life-changing. To learn more about Hear for You Hearing & Balance Center, call 703-823-3336.