Hearing aids are a medical device, and as such, for best outcomes, they need to be fit to an individual’s prescription. If a hearing aid is improperly fit, this can sometimes lead to undesired side effects. These side effects can be caused by many elements. Perhaps the hearing aid is not sized properly for the ear, or perhaps the sound settings are not correct for that individual’s hearing loss. In the article below we will explore some of the potential side effects and how to avoid them.
Hearing Aid Side Effects
Many side effects of hearing aids can be eliminated or avoided altogether by visiting an audiologist and having hearing aids fit to your particular prescription, ear anatomy, and listening needs.
The first potential side effect to address is headaches. Headaches may occur with hearing aid use if the hearing aids are too loud or too soft. When the hearing aids are too loud, the overstimulation to the ears can cause a headache. When the hearing aids are too soft, the listener may still need to strain to hear and understand what is going on, and this additional effort can sometimes cause headaches as well.
Next on the list is Tinnitus, also commonly referred to as ringing or buzzing in the ears. Properly fit hearing aids can be one of the best strategies to manage tinnitus. The underlying understanding of tinnitus, when it occurs along with hearing loss, is that the brain attempts to replicate the information that the ears are not able to pick up due to the hearing loss.
By wearing properly fit hearing aids, the desired input is returned to the ears, helping to reduce the individual’s awareness of tinnitus. However, improperly fit hearing aids can exacerbate tinnitus symptoms. If the hearing aids are not loud enough, they are likely not providing enough stimulation to help soothe the tinnitus response. On the flip side, if the hearing aids are too loud, they can overstimulate the ear, causing an increase in tinnitus symptoms.
Another common difficulty individuals experience may be itching or irritation in the ear canals. The skin in the ear canals is sensitive, and as such some of the materials that the hearing aid earbuds are made of can cause dryness and irritation. With a prescription hearing aid, if these issues occur, an audiologist can help direct you to a solution.
Prescription hearing aids often have a variety of earpiece materials and styles to choose from. Along these same lines, an improperly fit hearing aid can sometimes cause soreness in the ear. Maybe the earbud size is too large and it creates pressure in the ear. Or perhaps the top of the hearing aid sits too loosely or too snugly on top of the ear. With a prescription hearing aid, each part is measured to your ear and earpieces can be customized to your ear canal shape if necessary.
When discussing how you hear through a hearing aid, there are many elements to consider. The physical fit of the device, as discussed above, is one. If the hearing aid does not fit well into a person’s ear, the sound is not being appropriately directed into the ear canal. The next factor is how the sound of the hearing aid is programmed.
A properly programmed hearing aid is based on a hearing test, the listening goals of the patient, and a test called Real Ear Measurements (REMs) which measures the output of the hearing aid in the patient’s own ear canal. If any of those elements are not completed, the hearing aid may not be appropriately set for that particular individual, which may create difficulty hearing as well as desired.
On occasion, hearing loss may come along with poor speech recognition abilities (for various reasons). If this is the case, an audiologist can help to find accessory devices that work along with properly fit hearing aids to help individuals hear to the best of their abilities.
A final common side effect of hearing aids is feedback. This is a whistling or chirping noise that is emitted from the hearing aids. This can often be heard by the hearing aid user themselves, and sometimes by people nearby. Feedback is created when sound leaks out of the ear canal and is picked up by the microphones on the hearing aid.
When this occurs, the volume and physical fit of the hearing aid needs to be evaluated. The solution may be to adjust the settings in the hearing aid or to change the earpiece of the hearing aid to better seal the ear canal.
The Importance of Having Hearing Aids Fitted By An Audiologist
The best way to avoid or manage these hearing aid side effects is to visit an audiologist. An audiologist will be able to customize hearing aids for each individual person.
When you visit an audiologist they will begin by reviewing your medical history, then they will go over questions that explore your listening needs and goals. Then an examination of your ears and evaluation of your hearing will be completed. Next, they will help guide you in the selection of the best hearing aid for you.
After selecting a hearing aid the hearing aid will be measured on your ears. This includes evaluation of the physical fit of the hearing aid and the sound settings in the hearing aid. As we have reviewed above, it is important to ensure that a hearing aid is appropriately fit for the listener.
An additional benefit of having your hearing aids fit by an audiologist is that you have a resource to help support you as you move through your journey to better hearing. Hearing aids often need cleaning and maintenance support. Additionally, your hearing and your listening needs may change over the course of time. An audiologist can help to adjust your hearing aids as you move through these changes to ensure the hearing aids are always appropriate for you.
Over-the-counter devices: Are there potential side effects associated with hearing aids from Amazon?
If you are considering hearing aids from Amazon, or any other over-the-counter hearing aid, it’s crucial to be aware of potential side effects. While hearing aids can greatly enhance your auditory experience, improper fitting, low-quality devices, or lack of professional guidance can lead to discomfort, over-amplification, or inadequate performance.
Purchasing hearing aids without proper consultation with a licensed audiologist might result in devices that aren’t tailored to your specific hearing needs, potentially causing frustration and suboptimal outcomes. To minimize risks and ensure the best results, it’s recommended to work with a hearing healthcare professional who can provide expert guidance, appropriate fitting, and ongoing support to address any issues and maximize the benefits of hearing aids.
Real Ear Measurement
When having hearing aids fit for you an important component of the process is a test called Real Ear Measurements (REMs). This test is completed with the hearing aids in a person’s ear. The purpose of the test is to measure the output of the hearing aids in the person’s ear and assess how that sound is traveling down the ear canal to the eardrum.
Two individuals might have the exact same hearing loss on paper, however, if one of those people has an ear canal that is twice the size of the other, the sound may dissipate in the larger ear more before it arrives at the eardrum. Whereas in the smaller ear, the sound does not need to travel as far. This means that even though the hearing loss is exactly the same on paper, the hearing aids will need to be adjusted differently for each person based on the size and shape of their ears.
It is important to measure REMs in order to find out this information. Without measuring the hearing aids in the ear, there is no way to know if the hearing aid is at the appropriate level for that particular ear and in turn that particular person.
It may not be realistic to completely avoid all potential side effects from using hearing aids. However, if they are to occur, these side effects can be managed and resolved with the help of your audiologist. None of these side effects should be ongoing or long-term in their occurrence.
Many of these side effects can be avoided altogether by obtaining an appropriately fit hearing aid based on a hearing evaluation, with REMs completed. However, even the most seasoned audiologist may not be able to predict if the earbud material will cause your skin to itch, and sometimes a hearing aid does not have feedback in the office, but a patient may notice it once they get home. The most important aspect in this case is to tell your audiologist if any of these side effects occur because as we have learned, there is almost always a solution to the side effects.