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Hearing aids and headphones

For many people with hearing loss issues, the loss of the ability to hear music is a major disappointment and can affect one’s quality of life. Many people who wear hearing aids to treat their hearing loss often lament their inability to listen to music through headphones because of fit and feedback issues.

But what if people with hearing aids could listen to wear headphones at the same time? It turns out that, so long as some important considerations are taken into account, many hearing aid users can, indeed, enjoy music, podcasts, and audiobooks while listening to headphones. Here’s how:

A Professional’s Advice

When people with hearing loss get outfitted for their first pair of hearing aids, they often have many questions. One of the most common questions, of course, is whether or not one can listen to headphones while wearing the hearing aids. Additionally, many people are often concerned about headphones causing additional hearing loss.

According to a group hearing healthcare professionals, with a bit of experimentation, many people with hearing loss can find a set of headphones that are compatible with their hearing aids. As for the question of if headphone use can cause additional hearing loss, well, it depends.

Anyone who listens to headphones at too high of a volume or for too long can damage their hearing. So long as one follows the same advice for using headphones that hearing healthcare professionals give to everyone, then using headphones and hearing aids together shouldn’t really pose more of a risk. People with newly diagnosed hearing loss, though, may benefit from a consultation with a hearing healthcare professional before they start to experiment, just to make sure they don’t accidentally hurt their hearing even more.

How To Choose Headphones

Now that we’ve discussed some safety considerations for using hearing aids and headphones together, we can now start to look at the different kinds of headphones and their compatibility with hearing aids.

As you can imagine, not all headphones work with all hearing aids. While everyone is different, there are some general rules of thumb that you can follow to determine if a specific kind of headphone will work with your hearing aids. Here’s what to look for:

  • Bone conduction headphones. Although they may seem like a hot, new gadget, bone conduction technology has actually been around for quite awhile. In fact, even Beethoven, who suffered from hearing loss, used a bone conduction technique to be able to listen to the piano. These headphones are great for many people with hearing loss (so long as you have at least one functioning cochlea) because they rely on the vibration of the facial bones to transmit sound. Thus, they sit right behind the ear without interfering with the physical position of the hearing aid or preventing you from hearing ambient noise, which is important if you’re running or cycling.
  • On-ear headphones. On-ear headphones sit directly on top of the ear (as the name implies) without completely covering it. They are best for people who use completely-in-canal (CIC) or invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) hearing aids but can also be used for other in-canal/in-ear hearing aids. Generally speaking, they don’t work well with behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids because the microphone on these devices would sit outside the headphone. Some people may find that they experience feedback when using these headphones, so it’s important to try before you buy!
  • Over-ear headphones. These may look very similar to on-ear headphones, but instead of sitting directly on top of the ear, these headphones generally cover the entire ear. This makes them a bit more practical for people with BTE hearing aids and receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids, though some hearing aid/headphone combos cause feedback, so pre-purchase testing is always important.
  • Earbuds. As you can probably imagine, earbuds generally don’t work very well with hearing aids. Thus, it’s probably best to try out one of the other types of headphones.

Ultimately, the headphones you can use with your hearing aids are a matter of style, preference, and compatibility. What might work for a friend may not work for you, so it’s best to consult your hearing healthcare professional and to try out a variety of different headphones before you commit to one model.

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