Sometimes when we first start wearing hearing aids, we can hear different and even unusual sounds. Hissing is a sound hearing aid wearers often describe. There can be a few different reasons someone hears a hissing sound. Let’s look at the three most common sources of hissing sounds and how you can minimize them.
If you are sitting quietly with no TV, no radio, or no conversation and you hear a soft hissing sound, you may be hearing soft environmental sounds. One of the side effects of hearing loss is forgetting that we live in a pretty noisy world and are never truly without some sound.
Soft sounds in the environment, like the refrigerator running, the fan on a computer, the furnace or air conditioner turning on and off are the first to go. Once we start wearing hearing aids, we hear all these sounds again. Many people will find these sounds initially distracting. There are a couple of things that can be done to help.
The first thing that can be helpful is a process called “IFF – it”. Whenever you hear a new sound:
- Identify what the sound is
- Find out where it is coming from
- Forget it!
People with normal hearing hear all those environmental sounds, but they are so used to them that they’re able to ignore them. With time, your brain will also get use to these “new” sounds and eventually be able to ignore them, as well.
The second thing is to let your hearing healthcare provider know if these sounds are bothering you. They can evaluate the settings on your hearing aid and see what adjustments could be made to make these sounds less bothersome.
If you hear the hissing sound when you are moving your mouth or something gets close to your ear, it may be feedback. Feedback is a squealing or hissing that comes from sounds that “leak” out of the receiver on your hearing aid, get picked up again by the microphone, and go through the hearing aid again (you can read more about feedback here).
If you think the hissing you are hearing is feedback, your hearing healthcare provider can do a few different things to assist. All Starkey hearing aids have special features to control feedback, and adjustments to these features can virtually eliminate the hissing sound. Your provider may also change how the hearing aids fit in your ear to prevent sounds from leaking out.
If you are hearing a hissing when people are talking, particularly at the end of words, the hissing may actually be speech sounds. When we have a hearing loss, we can stop hearing the softest sounds of speech and our brains forget what those sounds are and how to “hear” them.
A great example is the “s” sound. With an untreated hearing loss, the “s” can be perceived as a short sound when it is actually a drawn-out sound. When you start wearing a hearing aid, the “s” sound can be perceived as “hissy” or “lispy”.
The difference between hearing and understanding
The first thing to realize is that these sounds are the reason you got hearing aids. These are the sounds that are the difference between hearing and understanding. The good news is that your brain will adapt. Time will be your best friend. The more you wear the hearing aids, and the more you listen and converse, the better you will do and the less “hissy” speech will become.
One thing that can help is reading aloud to yourself. I know it seems strange, but when you read aloud, you both see and say the word at the same time, so your brain is given more information to link the sound to speech. If you don’t want to read to yourself, find a child or grandchild and read together. We recommend about 20 to 30 minutes a day for at least two weeks.
No matter what, make sure your hearing healthcare provider knows what you are experiencing. And remember — learning to hear again is a worthwhile journey that takes time, and your provider is there to take the journey with you!