Headphones & Hearing Aids

Headphones & Hearing Aids

In Headphones, Hearing Aid Technology, Hearing Aids by Bary E. Williams Au.D.

When you get hearing aids, they can enhance your experience of the world. Where once you might have heard a muffled or muted sound in the natural environment or at home, hearing aids can restore full-spectrum sound to your ears. Music lovers can be particularly fond of the effect hearing aids bring to their lives. Whether going to a concert, playing an instrument, or playing albums through a home audio system, hearing aids make it possible to capture some of the depth and brightness of sound that once was lost. 

Despite this effect hearing aids can bring, they can prove difficult for one important hearing device: headphones. As you might have guessed, headphones can be difficult to use with hearing aids at the same time, and earbuds are nearly impossible. Although this combination can pose a difficulty, a little patience, research, and trial-and-error can help you find headphones that work for your needs. Here are a few of the options you might want to consider.

Bluetooth Hearing Aids

One of the best innovations in hearing aid technology has been integration with Bluetooth connectivity. Not only does this technology make it possible to hear incoming phone calls and smartphone notifications, but you can also use this function to stream music and other types of audio directly to your hearing aids. In effect, you can transform your hearing aids into Bluetooth earbuds with this feature, so if you haven’t yet purchased hearing aids, this possibility is worth considering. Another benefit of Bluetooth hearing aids is the ability to switch between different forms of audio seamlessly and to adjust the settings on your devices with simple controls on a smartphone app. 

Over-the-Ear Headphones

For those who don’t have Bluetooth connectivity in their hearing aids or who are looking for a different audio quality than Bluetooth can deliver, a trial and error method with over-the-ear headphones is the best approach. As you are shopping, look for headphones with large ear coverings able to encapsulate the entire hearing aid. Many people feel discomfort when headphones are too small to fully cover the component of some hearing aids that fit behind the ear. If you have hearing aids that fit completely in the ear, you might be able to use headphones that sit on the ear, often with a foam padding or other surface to diffuse the sound over the outer ear. Whether your hearing aids have a behind-the-ear component or fit entirely in the ear, you will most likely not be able to use standard earbuds with your hearing aids. Even those aids that sit in the ear canal tend to have issues with earbud speakers pointed directly at them.

Advanced Technology

In addition to these mass-market options, there are more advanced forms of audio technology that can help you use hearing aids and listen to music at the same time. Bone conduction headphones use a similar technology to cochlear implants, transforming vibrations in the bones of the head and ears to assist the inner ear in transforming those vibrations into sound. These headphones can be a good solution for some people, but they can also bump and jostle behind-the-ear hearing aids in some cases. Headphones are also available for people who have single-ear deafness, taking the spatial effect of stereo sound and translating it to the single ear that has hearing ability. If you have asymmetrical hearing loss or unilateral hearing loss, these devices may help you achieve a stereo effect despite your one-sided condition.

Beyond these options, some people opt to take out their hearing aids when they use headphones. If you attempt this approach, take care with the level of audio you are projecting into your ears. Some people turn up headphones or earbuds to a damaging level in an attempt to go without hearing aids, but this tactic can backfire by playing very loud frequencies in the range of sound you are better at hearing. Also, be careful with safety concerns if you remove your headphones in public, particularly when you are traveling or walking on a busy street. With these considerations in mind, you should be able to find a solution for music listening!

Bary E. Williams Au.D.
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