February 25, 2011

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.



  1. My mother wore hearing aids, as her hearing got worse she turned them up and up and up to hear things, when that failed she bought more powerful aids and did the same thing. Hearing aids WILL then make your hearing worse, by misuse and by sheer fear of going deaf. Ditto ipods, CD players etc.... The standing joke of people shouting at those going deaf is an example of perceptions of addressing loss issues, MORE noise ! Having said that in the UK years ago we had 'Medresco' hearing aids, (Box type with wires), absolutely NO doubt they did make many deaf. There was no real thought gone into them, they were basically amplifiers and nothing else. They would be illegal today. They created a generation of deaf people.

  2. lol

    It's amazing how much myths are out there. My hearing has gone down over the years but, that is expected with my type of hearing loss. Slow progression over the years and it has nothing to do with hearing aids. What is interesting is that I pick up on more words and have better word discrimination over the years due to my "listening" skills.


  3. One more note..

    People need to provide cites or references to these things and if they have "heard" about it, they need to do their research.

    This is important and I wish more would do that.


  4. MM is right about how we need to be careful about protecting our hearing. Being a late-deafened adult, MM has more of an understanding of this issue than some of us here. I can understand his concerns about the risks of damaging our hearing.

  5. Many late-deaf STILL feel more volume means better hearing, but not one scientific bit of research would justify it. Some frequencies need amplifying yes..... so we choose if we need to prioritise speech comprehension over music.

    When late deafened struggle many frequencies start to come and go, as the hairs die in the ear, it's why the adage "Hears when they want to..." originates, in reality we have no control over what we here or when, it can be a random process. Also sentences/words can disappear and return at random too, it's down to frequency loss. It's why you can understand some people and not others.

    Most of it came from HA manufacturers and I can point readers to a plethora of online sites that advertises "You can hear a whisper 30ft away", plugging AMPLIFIERS (Not HA). The perception loud is good is rampant. Even environmental aids for the home are advertised as very loud as part of sales pitch. The RNID in the UK advertises an amplified telephone with a decibel rating equal to an jumbo jet landing, all quite legal (Despite an 40% LOWER rating for those in the work place!), and justified on the grounds 'for deaf use'. The same group runs campaigns against noisy music...

  6. That’s a question that a number of people have concerns with. Anything is possible, of course, but the short answer is that typically no, hearing aids won’t damage your hearing.Loud sounds damage our ears (either instantly or eventually). That is not open to question. The currently accepted level is that sounds less than 80 dB will not harm your hearing, no matter how long you listen to them.
    hearing clinics

    1. I would say the recent trends in that are designed to fit industry requirements, especially hearing aid producers. The same is with medications, drugs, ect. From my experience I can say they making their own quiet research on people like on rabbits rather then using correct facts and finally designed solutions. Everything is about money not about people. That's the point. If they produced next generation of death people because of hearing aids unclear practices they will say we are sorry, it was 10 years ago, now it's much better, believe us bla bla bla... In final word they make fortunes on us selling us cheap stories which in many cases are wrong adjustments and incorrect tests especially on kids and especially done by not experienced audiologists. We shouldn't trust them in 100% as some of them are definitely working for big profits from industry. That's what I think. My daughter has got mild to moderate hearing loss and they pissed me off recently, they did test while she had some hidden infection in her ear and they said she almost lost hearing. They set up her hearing to almost profound loss levels and when she tried them couple days after when she was better she almost didn't lose her hearing. They didn't listen people when they suggesting that your child may be not well. I sad how can you be so sure about the test if she got probably infection? Does it make sense at all to do hearing test when you got any problems like infection is? In my opinion no, they shouldn't proceed test, they should say come in 2-3 weeks time. What's the point of boosting your hearing aids to temporary thing that may change even tomorrow? I thought science is based on facts and logic approach and after proper decision rather than on experimenting with real beings!

    2. ''They set up her hearing to almost profound loss levels and when she tried them couple days after when she was better she almost did lose her hearing.''

  7. Hearing aids are made and designed to help deaf people and people with hearing loss hear sounds. Just like any other medicine, it may have side effects. It is therefore very essential to find the best hearing aids that will not give any adverse effects like total hearing loss.

  8. There are a lot of myths out there that speak about the damage brought by hearing aids, but it still is one of the best devices for people with hearing impairment. I think the problem lies on the abuse and misuse of the hearing devices. Some people think that setting up the aids’ volume to the maximum level would help them hear better. However, the higher level of sound would expose them to more auditory damage. It is best to ask the audiologist about the acceptable level of decibels suitable for your ear and your hearing aid.

  9. I have fitted hearing aids for 35 years. One problem is that people with severe to profound hearing loss require a lot of amplification in order to use the hearing they have. Unfortunately sounds at that amplified level have the potential to worsen hearing. So the choice is between using the aids in order to hear and accepting the risk of making the hearing worse, OR to wear no hearing aids and hear nothing. It is somewhat of a "catch 22" situation. Most such people choose to wear the aids and take the risk.

    People with mild to moderately severe losses do not require amplification to potentially hazardous levels. So it depend very much on the severity of the hearing loss. Hope this helps.

    1. You're absolutely right. I have moderate / severe hearing loss . Unfortunately the easy way to satisfy the consumer by giving them more sound is also the most harmful. Rather than simply adding amplification , more personal analysis with individualized (not out of the box) HA settings to fit within range and required needs is whats really needed

  10. My mother has had progressive hearing loss and wears HAs with enormous amplification. Sometimes the feedback is so great the squeal hurts my ears when I am sitting next to her and she doesn't seem to notice. She is almost entirely deaf. If she wasn't over 70, she'd be considering some sort of cochlear implant.

    So I discovered this blog post as I was looking for information on hearing aids which damage hearing.

    It occurs to me that noise blocking earpieces which block all unnecessary sound, and an HA which presents normal levels of sound but only those which can be perceived, might be much better as the ear and brain would find it much easier to distinguish the sound?

  11. I hve to warn everyone - I just bought a hearing aid for my Mother, and since she lives in another country I tested it quickly to make sure it was not defective and to tell her how to use it. In testing it I had enormous feedback in my ear, which damaged my hearing permanently. Hearing aids cause permanent hearing loss!


Keep it civil.