Ask the Audiologist: Can Hearing Aids Help People Who Are Deaf?
Hearing aids help those with hearing loss by making sounds louder so they are audible and clear. But what about those who are considered deaf? We proverbially use the word deaf to describe an individual who “can’t hear anything.” Audiometrically speaking, most deaf individuals have what are categorized as severe to profound or profound hearing loss. This means they usually have some residual hearing, typically in the lower frequencies, allowing them to hear sounds such as drums and bass in loud music. Oftentimes, they experience these very low and very loud sounds almost as a vibration.
How hearing aids can help deaf individuals
For those who have milder hearing loss, their primary goal for using hearing aids is to help them understand speech. But for individuals with more profound hearing loss, hearing aids alone are not sufficient to bring their hearing to near-normal levels. This doesn’t mean deaf people won’t find hearing aids helpful. Hearing aids can help them hear more sound, but how much their brain is able make use of these sounds for speech understanding varies.
Some deaf individuals are very adept at taking advantage of amplified speech sounds. When combined with expert speechreading skills (reading lips plus looking at facial expressions, body language, and other contextual signs), these auditory cues help them gain excellent understanding of speech. Oftentimes, these individuals have had intensive auditory training with hearing aids.
For many others, they wear hearing aids not to hear and understand speech, but to have higher environmental awareness of the world around them. Hearing aids help to alert them to sounds such as oncoming traffic or someone outside of their field of vision calling for their attention.
Hearing aids for those with more hearing loss
Hearing aids for the deaf need to be more than just powerful. Because deaf individuals use hearing aids to achieve different goals than those with milder hearing loss, hearing aid manufacturers and hearing care professionals dedicate unique fitting strategies for their patients with severe to profound hearing loss. For example, the majority of hearing aid wearers like to have background noise suppressed while only amplifying speech sounds. But deaf individuals often want to hear everything they possibly can, regardless of background noise or speech. As a result, hearing aid directional microphones and advanced noise suppression features advantageous for others are often deactivated for deaf patients.
More often than not, patients with severe to profound hearing loss are very experienced hearing aid wearers, many of whom have used amplification most of their lives. They know exactly how they like to hear in each situation, and as a result, have greater appreciation for the ability to control their hearing aids in various listening situations. In comparison, many patients with milder losses don’t want to be seen fiddling with their hearing aid controls, but prefer fully automatic hearing aids that adapt to their changing listening environments without any user intervention.
Signia offers a wide range of hearing aids suitable for patients with any degree of hearing loss. To see which types may be appropriate for you or your loved one, check out our product portfolio.