When we begin to lose our hearing, one of the first things that we notice are changes in conversations with friends and loved ones. While we might not notice changes in our ability to hear music, we often notice that conversations on our favorite television shows or chats at parties become almost impossible to understand.
This is often one of the biggest reasons someone will seek out a hearing test. That's because these changes we have in our ability to understand speech can have a big impact on our relationships, and our happiness. Hearing aids can transform not just our hearing, but also our relationships with loved ones since they make these conversations not just possible, but also enjoyable!
Even though hearing aid wearers will notice improvements in conversations after getting a hearing aid, they often don't know why. Hearing aids are more than just amplifiers of sounds – they change the way we understand particular sounds depending on our hearing needs. When it comes to speech, this is what you should know about hearing aids and speech recognition.
Frequencies in Speech
Just like most sounds, speech is made up of many different frequencies. Combinations of frequencies is what tells our ears and brain if a sound is high or low – high-pitched sounds are actually higher frequencies, while lower sounds are lower frequencies.
Combinations of frequencies and our ability to perceive them is what makes it possible to understand speech. That's because these combination of frequencies make up the letters and sound combinations we use in words and sentences. Lower frequencies make sounds like G or B, while higher frequencies make the sound for P or T.
When we hear someone speak, we often use these higher frequency sounds to differentiate between words and sounds. It's what tells us if a person is saying the word “bad”, or the word “pat”. However, when we lose our hearing, what often goes first is our ability to understand higher frequency sounds. Consequently, we might not have all of the sound information we need to differentiate between “pat” and “bad”.
When words become muddy, we have to concentrate even harder to understand sentences – sometimes to the point where we must watch someone's mouth to understand what is being said. This can be tiresome, and often makes it hard for us to carry on lengthy conversations without becoming too tired or even cranky!
Hearing aids target these higher-frequency sounds and amplify them, which makes all the difference in speech. Suddenly our brains are getting the information we need to understand what a person is saying. This can in turn make it easier to carry on longer conversations and help our relationships in the process!
Background Noise and Speech Perception
Understanding speech when we experience hearing loss is hard enough. Combine that with loud environments where background noise competes with sound from speech, and we might find ourselves withdrawing from social situations entirely for fear of losing our ability to speak with our friends and family.
Beyond just amplifying high frequency sounds to help with speech, many hearing aids have the ability to amplify sounds coming from a particular direction. That means that when we are in a restaurant and talking to someone across the table from us, our hearing aids can focus amplification on them instead of the clanking of dishes behind us. This makes speech recognition even easier.
Depending on your hearing aid, certain aids can focus their microphones in specific directions either automatically or manually. Some hearing aids even have remote controls or smartphone apps that allow us to control the direction of our hearing aid microphones. For even more control, some aids connect to hand-held microphones that we can point toward a speaker!
Hearing aids change our lives for the better, and improve our relationships in the process. If you are having a difficult time understanding speech and conversations, it might be a sign that it's time for a hearing test. Contact our team to find out about your hearing and to find the right hearing aid for you!