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Am I speaking too loud when wearing my new hearing aids?

new hearing aids

For the first-time hearing aid user, there’s a common issue everyone faces, and that is adjusting to the sound and volume of your own voice as heard through the hearing aids.

Learning how to adjust the volume of your voice in different situations can be tricky. Here are some tips to help you understand and manage the issue.

Hearing your own voice with hearing aids

When your hearing aids are switched on and you speak for the first time, your own voice may sound strange to you. It may sound tinny, or hollow, or have a booming quality that you don’t recognize.  If this happens, talk to your audiologist and explain how your voice sounds. They may be able to make some immediate adjustments to make your voice sound more natural.

After a settling in period, you should hopefully start to become used to the sound quality of your hearing aids. This includes hearing your own voice through the hearing devices. But, if you’re still not happy with the sound of your own voice, try and see your hearing care professional again and ask for more adjustments.

Perception of noise with hearing loss

According to this article on Audiology Online, It takes an average of seven years for most adults with a gradual hearing loss to get hearing aids. When hearing has been lost gradually, it’s easy to be largely unaware of some sounds that can no longer be heard.

Hearing aids pick up and amplify a large range of sounds of which the first-time user will suddenly become aware; many they may not have heard in years. For this reason, new users may complain that ‘everything is too loud’.

Some sounds may be instantly recognizable – a knock at the door, a phone ringing – others may take to distinguish – a kettle boiling, a tap running. These sounds may sound almost unbearable at first and we may feel the need to compensate (for our perception of being in a noisy environment) by speaking more loudly. Sometimes we may be speaking unnecessarily loudly.

When I first started using hearing aids, I found the noise of the extractor on my cooker hood almost deafening. I would shout to make myself heard above the din, but to my husband, who was used to the sound and to tuning it out, I was speaking louder than was necessary. 

Gaining and insight

If you have a close friend or family member who is willing to help you work on your volume control, you could give them an insight into the issues you’re facing by asking them to wear ear defenders or ear plugs whilst having a conversation with you. Video the conversation and then play it back to them. They will then be able to judge for themselves how much louder they were speaking when their hearing was temporarily impaired and they couldn’t hear their own voice normally.

Keep in mind that whether we have hearing loss or not, we all tend to increase the loudness of our voice as our perception of the background noise around us increases. The more background noise in a bar or restaurant, the more we will speak up in order to be heard. Gauging how loudly we’re speaking over what we hear as background noise can sometimes seem like a fine art. Like most things, getting it right takes practice.

Read more: “Sound” is relative when you have hearing loss

Tips for managing your voice’s volume

  1. Talk to your hearing care provider. They can adjust the programming of how you hear your own voice. It may be that as you adjust to using hearing aids, you may need a few programming tweaks.
  2. If your hearing aids have a volume setting, turn down the volume of the background noise is making you feel as though you need to shout to be heard. This will reduce your perception of overall background noise, so you won’t feel you have to shout over it.
  3. Do your hearing aids have the capacity for different program settings e.g. ‘speech in noise’, ‘echoey places’? Ask your audiologist to add additional programmes relevant to the type of setting in which you’re struggling to hear yourself speak.
  4. Is your model of hearing aid compatible with a remote control? A remote can be great for discreetly changing programs or increasing or decreasing volume.
  5. Practice speaking with a trusted friend in a variety of environments and ask for their feedback. Get an idea of which program, and voice volume, work best for you and your companions.
  6. Use a decibel measuring app to get a visual representation and measurement of how loudly you are speaking in different settings. Check with your trusted friend which volume they would recommend. Then, practice speaking at that volume at home.

What do you recommend to others as they adjust to new noise with their hearing aids? Let us know in the comments. 

Author Details
Phonak hEARo, Angie is a freelance journalist and content writer. Angie was diagnosed with Otosclerosis in her right ear at the age of 30. In 2011, she suffered sudden profound hearing loss in her left ear. She uses a Phonak CROS II with a Phonak Audéo V hearing aid. You can follow Angie on Twitter @hearinglosshour and join in #HearingLossHour on the first Tuesday of the month.