“I can hear but I still can’t understand…”

Hearing aids come in all sizes and shapes.

Hearing loss can be a very complicated problem.  There are two “parts” to our ability to hear; one part is to provide the adequate volume necessary to hear the things important for communication, and the second part is the brain’s ability to interpret or make sense of what was heard.  Some patients simply need sound amplified to hear and communicate well because their word understanding ability is good once the adequate amplification is provided.  However, when a patient has poor word understanding it can limit how much benefit hearing aids alone can provide.  The hearing aid provides the proper amount of amplification needed to hear the sounds but they still find it difficult to clearly understand what is being said.  This is not because the hearing aid is not working properly, but more a limitation in the brain’s ability to clearly process and interpret what they heard.  You may ask, “What good is the hearing aid if it can’t help me or my loved one understand what is being said?”  In order to try and understand conversation you first must be able to hear it.  The hearing aid provides the necessary amplification to give audibility to the sounds that the hearing aid deficit is affecting.  This provides more information to the brain giving you or your loved one a better chance at understanding what is said.  The key to the best success is to wear hearing aids for audibility and also use other listening strategies such as watching people’s faces for visual cues, having loved ones get your attention first before they speak so you can focus more on what’s being said, reducing background noise when possible, and asking people to slow down their rate of speech so the brain can process it more clearly.  Following these simple strategies along with hearing aid use can help end your hearing loss frustrations and open the lines of communication once again.