Hearing Aids & Headphones

Hearing Aids and Headphones

In hearing health by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Use of headphones, for work or for leisure activities, is certainly possible with your hearing aids. HearCare Rhode Island can review your options with you if you like, or help you adjust your hearing aids if you are getting feedback.

Headphone Options

The issues facing you if you want to use headphones with hearing aids are finding something that works with your model and making sure they function if you also have tinnitus. Tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, is sometimes an issue with hearing loss and while hearing devices control it – using headphones and trying to hear over the ringing can be an issue. There are many different models of headphones with different types of padding and acoustic rating and you should be able to find one that works for you.

Listening to music using headphones without your hearing aids isn’t really a good option because turning up the volume loud enough for you to hear could further damage your hearing.

Bone conducting headphones

These work best with hearing aids that are: in the ear, in the canal, completely in the canal and invisible in the ear. The headphones fit with a piece on the back of your head and then on either side, a piece loops over and a small round , padded area sits directly on the bone just in front of your ear. They are lightweight and made of material that resists moisture, so you won’t get a large sweat spot on the side of your head. While they sound awkward, they are not. If you would draw a line parallel from the corner of your eye to the middle of the ear, the on-the-bone conductor sits just in front of the ear.

On ear headphones

On-ear headphones are usually lighter and more portable, than over the ear headphones. While you may not think there is a difference between on the ear and over the ear, there is. The ear is still visible if you are wearing on the ear headphones.
The work well with completely in the canal or invisible in the canal hearing aids. The can be used with open fit receiver in the ear models, but there may be some feedback. It is wise to test out these headphones if you can before you buy. They need to fit snuggly on the ear or you will get some ambient noise seepage.

Over the ear headphones

These sit completely over the ear – like noise canceling headphones and they are best for in the ear, in the canal, completely in the canal and invisible in the canal hearing aids. If you have behind the ear hearing aids, you need to pick an over the ear headphone model that fits over the ear and sits at a reasonable distance from the hearing aid microphone. It is recommended that the headphone speakers be about one centimeter or a little bit more, from the microphone in your hearing aid to get good sound quality.

Noise canceling headphones

If you have issues with background and ambient noise and your hearing aids, you might want to pick noise canceling headphones. Test them first – some noise canceling headphones have a faint “hiss” and some hearing aids pick that up.
There are some noise cancelling headphones that function through a Bluetooth adapter or through an audio cable which comes with the device. Some headphones come with a noise cancelling function that you can turn on or off. If you have in-the-ear hearing aids that sit in the bowl of your ear, over the ear headphones are your best bet, also.

Test drive some headphones

  • Larger electronics stores usually carry a representative sampling of the various kinds of headphones for you to try before you buy. Price might be a factor in which option you look at.
  • Different headphone manufacturers employ different tonal qualities so if your hearing loss involves low or high frequency, you might need to try out a couple of models to see which works best for you.
  • With invisible in the ear, you can use ear buds or try out any of the models. The Academy of Doctors of Audiology cautions hearing device users to not overspend  on high-fidelity headphones because you don’t get the full benefit from them.
  • Make sure you have an up-to-date hearing evaluation from HearCare and your hearing devices are checked before you got shopping for headphones.