Can Hearing Aids Make Hearing Worse?   

Can Hearing Aids Make Hearing Worse?

Adult woman with a hearing impairment uses a hearing aid to communicate with her female friend at city park.
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Virginia Gural-Toth, AuD, CCC
Some people look for any excuse not to get hearing aids, but don’t believe rumors that hearing aids will make your hearing worse; that’s extremely unlikely.

“Hearing aids are designed to help improve the quality of what you hear,” says Virginia Gural-Toth, Au.D., CCC/A, manager of audiology services at the Center for Audiology at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. “However, someone who is not fit with the correct hearing aid for their hearing loss may damage their hearing.”

Why People Think Hearing Aids Cause Hearing Loss

Those who grow accustomed to hearing aids may believe that their hearing has deteriorated. But they’ve simply gotten used to hearing better with their assistive devices.

“Before their hearing aids, they may not have realized how poor their hearing was,” says Gural-Toth.

Some people choose over-the-counter amplifiers or hearing aids to cope with hearing loss. However, some of these devices may actually be harmful to hearing.

“Some devices amplify all sound, which may make it harder to hear,” says Gural-Toth. “Amplified sounds that are too loud may cause further hearing loss.”

What Hearing Aids Can and Can’t Do

If you have hearing loss, hearing aids may improve your sense of hearing. But they won’t restore your hearing to what it was before your hearing loss.

“Hearing aids amplify sounds so you are more aware of what is going on around you, like hearing friends and families’ voices while in a crowded restaurant. They can also help reduce unwanted background noise which makes listening easier,” says Gural-Toth.

Some hearing aids allow you to connect wirelessly to Bluetooth devices. This may help you hear your TV or cell phone better… even live theater performances.

Where to Go to Get Hearing Aids

Your primary care physician or ear-nose-and throat specialist (otolaryngologist) can refer you to a licensed audiologist who will test your hearing. Licensed audiologists fit people with hearing aids, then personalize them for your needs.

Audiologists may suggest different styles of hearing aids, such as:
  • In-the-canal styles, which fit into the ear canal (opening)
  • Completely-in-the-canal styles, which are tinier than in-the-canal styles
  • In-the-ear styles, which take up more space within the ear than just the canal
  • Behind-the-ear styles, which hook behind the ear and have tubing that goes in the canal
  • Receiver-in-the-ear styles, which hook behind the ear and have a wire going into the canal
  • Open-fit styles, similar to receiver-in-the-ear styles, have openings, allowing sounds to reach the ear

An audiologist can help you decide which hearing aid is right for you. They choose technology to make it easier for you to hear, based on your lifestyle.

Your audiologist will also help fit you with your hearing aids. People who aren’t fitted properly may not wear their hearing aids, because they hurt.

Benefits of Hearing Aids

Beyond improving your hearing, properly fitting hearing aids have other benefits including:

  • They allow you to maintain your social life, because you can hear your friends
  • They may lower your risk of depression and anxiety, which rises with hearing loss
  • They may lower the risk of dementia in older adults with hearing loss
  • They help to improve life satisfaction among people with hearing loss

“If you’re concerned about hearing loss, don’t ignore it – seek help,” says Gural-Toth. “Most hearing loss may be improved with assistive devices like hearing aids.”

Next Steps & Resources:

  • To find an audiology center near you, please visit our website.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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