As the holiday season is here, you may find yourself attending numerous gatherings, parties, and events this month. In such social settings, many people often first notice hearing loss, especially in noisy environments like pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes, and lecture halls. These venues pose significant challenges due to their large open spaces, multiple sound sources, and the prevalence of hard, flat surfaces that reflect sound waves, making it harder to hear amidst background noise. If you’re experiencing difficulty hearing amidst background noise, it could be a sign of diminished hearing ability.
Why do I experience more hearing difficulties in noisy surroundings?
When we examine the reasons behind people struggling to hear in noisy environments, it boils down to two key factors: hearing loss and auditory processing.
Hearing loss occurs when the auditory system doesn’t function properly. There are various causes for this (you can learn about them here), but essentially, it means that the sound entering the ear isn’t transmitted to the brain as a complete, high-resolution signal.
Auditory processing, on the other hand, is what happens when that sound reaches the brain. It’s the brain’s ability to differentiate speech from background noise—a highly intricate process. The brain must extract the desired speech signal from the unwanted environmental noise swiftly, considering the rapid pace of speech and the fluctuations in volume, pitch, and sound direction. The brain must instantly calculate and process these changes.
Auditory processing typically declines with age, but it can also be impaired at any age due to damage to the auditory nerve from excessive noise exposure, as well as exposure to certain chemicals and medications that can harm hearing.
At SNA we offer a comprehensive audiological assessments that encompass middle ear function evaluation, pure tone testing, and speech analysis. These evaluations are meticulously conducted within a sound-treated booth to ensure precise hearing test results. Our services extend to both pediatric and adult populations, offering complete hearing healthcare across all age groups.
Regrettably, it is possible for someone to experience both hearing loss and poor auditory processing simultaneously. In such cases, understanding speech in noisy environments can be particularly challenging.
Improving Your Hearing in Noisy Environments
When hearing loss is the primary concern, and your auditory processing is intact, hearing aids alone can provide significant benefits. These devices amplify softer speech sounds, enabling your brain to separate the desired speech from background noise effectively. When your hearing aids are precisely calibrated to your specific needs, they can make the key difference between actively participating in a conversation and merely observing the restaurant’s wall.
On the other hand, if your hearing is in good shape but you struggle with poor auditory processing, the solution might lie in an assisted listening device (ALD), with or without supplementary auditory training exercises. This combination could provide the assistance you require to enhance your hearing experience.
To gain a deeper understanding of your individual hearing situation and undergo a thorough hearing assessment, don’t hesitate to reach out to Southern Nevada Audiology. We’re here to assist you in returning to enjoyable social gatherings, even in noisy environments.