Hearing Aids & Headphones

Did you know that you can use headphones even if you use hearing aids? Advances in headphone technology and hearing aid technology have created ways to use them both at the same time. You can now also use your hearing aids as headphones.

Different Types of Headphones

Bone Conduction Headphones

There are generally three types of headphones that you can use if you are a hearing aid user. First, there are bone conduction headphones that do not make any contact with your ears. Instead, they sit in front of your ears, on the cheekbones. The transducers of bone conduction headphones send sound vibrations through your cheekbones to your cochlea. The cochlea is the spiral cavity of your inner ear. It contains the organ of Corti that produces nerve impulses in response to sound vibrations. Those nerve impulses are then sent to the brain for translation. Bone conduction headphones ultimately leave your ears open and free. This means that you can continue to wear your hearing aids while also listening to music. Unfortunately, these headphones do not have much power and their sound quality can be somewhat lacking.

On-Ear or Over-the-Ear Headphones

Other headphone options for hearing aid users include on-ear and over-the-ear headphones. These possess varying levels of power and sound quality depending on how much you are willing to spend. On-ear headphones are smaller and lighter than over-the-ear styles. The name says it all: their padded headphones sit lightly on your ear. They transmit sound much more directly than bone conduction headphones. These headphones can have a great sound quality and a long-lasting battery. Over-the-ear headphones fit entirely around the ear, often creating a seal that is aided by noise-canceling technologies.

People who use behind-the-ear style hearing aids will need to test multiple pairs of over-the-ear and on-ear headphones in order to find those that fit best around their hearing devices. It is also important to be aware of an important issue regarding wearing headphones as a hearing aid user. Over-the-ear and on-ear headphones can at times generate feedback with hearing aids. This leads to annoying whirring, buzzing, and high-pitched noises. However, noise-canceling headphones can often cancel out feedback issues.

Streaming with Hearing Aids

Headphones are not the only option for people with hearing aids who want to listen to music, podcasts, or to stream their favorite content. Hearing aid technology has in fact come a long way over the years. Now, there many models of hearing aids that have emerged with Bluetooth connectivity. This allows you to connect directly to a wide range of devices including cellphones, tablets, and even televisions. When hearing aids serve as your headphones, you can stream music, podcasts, and such. But it also allows you to take phone calls through the hearing devices as well. Some of the hearing aids with Bluetooth connectivity include the Phonak Audeo B Direct, Oticon OPN, Resound Linx 3d, Starkey Halo 2, and more. These hearing aids often come with their own apps that you can download to your phone to control sound settings as well.

Safety

While incredible technological advances have made it easier for people with hearing aids to use or integrate with headphones, there are important hearing health safety issues to remember. Researchers have established links between headphone use and hearing loss. In-ear headphones (also known as earbuds) are a huge culprit for this. But many people who wear hearing aids are incapable of using those devices. No matter the headphone style the problem remains. We must not listen to anything at sustained, loud volumes.

Audiologists generally agree that sounds over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. To put that in context, most sounds heard in city spaces already exceed this decibel mark. For example, garbage trucks can clock in at 100 dB, cars honking their horns can reach 110 dB. Sirens such as those emitted by ambulances frequently reach 120 dB. These already loud noises, more often than not, cause us to turn our headphones up even louder than they already are. This action can cause further, lasting damage to your hearing. No matter what kind of headphones you use, it is good practice to simply listen at 60% of maximum volume for a maximum of 60 minutes a day. If you are listening to something at a louder volume, you should decrease the time you spend listening.

Finding a Happy Medium

It may seem contradictory to think about hearing aids and headphones together. One of the devices has been linked with rising rates of hearing loss. However, the other has helped millions of people worldwide to hear better. There are ways to balance your headphone use as part of a longer hearing health plan. There are also ways to use headphones as a hearing aid user. Think carefully about what your hearing needs are. This will help you to understand the best ways in which you can integrate headphones into your hearing aid usage.

Visit Us at Hearing Group

Are you experiencing changes in your hearing? Contact us at Hearing Group to schedule an appointment for a consultation and hearing exam.

Jesse Hidalgo, BC-HIS

Jesse is Board Certified in Hearing Instruments and has built over 25 practices during his business career starting in 1998. Using his training in Hearing Instrument Sciences he has helped thousands of patients across those practices hear better.
Published: September 19, 2018
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