Can Hearing Aids Damage Your Hearing?

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was told that hearing aids will definitely damage my hearing some more if I keep wearing them. This person suggested that I should stop wearing my hearing aid. This person was not an audiologist or an experienced hearing aid user. She stated that hearing aids will cause hearing damage in those who wear them. This is based on what she "heard" from others and what she read online. Because she had no evidence to present to me or any specific details that made sense, I could not take what she said seriously.

But, I still looked into it.

I asked a lot of people questions. I did the research. I looked at and compared my audiograms from when I was a preschooler to now. Even though I have been wearing hearing aids (both analog and digital) for over twenty five years, my hearing has remained the same. Therefore, it can be said that my hearing aids have not made my hearing any worse, yet. But what about other people? Can other people damage their hearing by using hearing aids? 

From what I have learned, the only way hearing aids could be the main reason why someone's hearing grew significantly worse over time, is if the hearing aids are not programmed appropriately. If the hearing aid is programmed for the person to have amplification in frequencies where they have typical hearing in, it could cause the person to develop more of a hearing loss over time.

If the hearing aid is programmed appropriately for the user, most likely it will not damage the user's hearing.

From ASHA's website:

Myth: A hearing aid will damage your hearing.

Fact: A properly fitted and maintained hearing aid will not damage your hearing.

If an avid hearing aid user is experiencing a progressive hearing loss, before anyone can conclude that hearing aids are the culprit, it would be important to look at other reasons. It would help to find out what type of hearing loss this person has. What kind of lifestyle does he or she lead? What types of medication does this person take? Does she or he have any types of diseases or ailments? What type of work does this person do everyday or several days a week?

Let's say a man comes in to get his hearing tested and finds out that his hearing has gotten significantly worse compared to two years ago. His sudden progressive hearing loss would come to no surprise to you if you learn that he works in construction and has failed to try to protect his hearing while working several hours a day dealing with very loud machines. I would be more ready to believe that the direct result of his hearing loss could be due to inappropriately fitted hearing aids if he worked in a quiet library.

If I wear hearing aids that are not programmed appropriately (making all sounds much louder than they should be) in a very loud and noisy environment for several hours everyday, then I would probably lose more of my hearing due to constant exposure to very loud noises amplified by my hearing aid. But, why would I do this to myself? I would think that most people would know if their hearing aids are not programmed appropriately. If their hearing aids amplify everyday sounds to the point that they are uncomfortable or hurting them, most would not wear them or would take them to the audiologist to get them reprogrammed. I would never wear my hearing aid while I am at a very loud concert. Most people would instinctively plug in their ears or take out their hearing aids if something is really loud.

Now, with children, especially the young ones, it can be a different story. Let's say a child has an FM system or hearing aid that has been programmed inappropriately at settings that are way too loud. Even though the setting is too loud, the child, not knowing any better, may report no problems and continue to wear the hearing aid or FM system without ever having it reprogrammed again. If they don't like wearing them, or if they seem very dependent on these FMs and hearing aids and report a drastic change in how they hear when they are not wearing the hearing aids or FM system, it could be a sign that their amplification devices are not programmed appropriately for them. Therefore, maybe it would be possible for the devices to cause more damage to their hearing, especially if they wear them in noisy areas frequently (cafeteria, loud music, etc.). Of course, everyone is different. It would be hard to say who would be affected, how they would be affected, and how long it would take for them to lose their hearing due to constant loud noise exposure.

Even though it is possible to lose your hearing by using amplification devices that are set at inappropriately high decibel levels, it does not mean that the person who told me not to wear hearing aids is entirely correct.  She would be correct if she had said that I should not wear or use amplification devices that are not appropriate for me.

Therefore to simply state that all hearing aids will definitely cause more hearing loss would be incorrect.


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