Hearing & Balance Doctors

Hearing Better in Background Noise

Hearing Better in Background Noise

Hearing Better in Background Noise

by | Aug 24, 2018 | Hearing Loss, News, Patient Resources

A common complaint that we hear from our patients is their regular struggle to participate in conversations and social settings due to background noise interference. This can happen at restaurants, parks, family get-togethers, religious services, and even stores.

Differentiating sounds is a complex problem that in a normal functioning auditory system happens automatically, similar to the way our lungs breathe and our hearts beat involuntarily.

The process of hearing amid background noise works like this:

  • Our ears pick up the many sounds around us – our companion’s voice, other conversations, children crying, dogs barking, traffic passing by, dishes clanking, and more.
  • These signals are sent to our brain.
  • The brain analyzes each of these sounds and separates them into their own discrete auditory stream.
  • The brain prioritizes which streams to focus on and which streams to suppress.
  • The brain sends this signal back down to the ears. This is called top-down or efferent noise suppression. The ears now know to suppress sounds that aren’t important to you.
  • Through this process, our brains can choose which sounds to focus on — like the conversation in which we are engaged — while suppressing all of the distracting noises around us.

As hearing loss progresses, the ability to block out background noise digresses. The brain and the ears struggle to communicate, leaving the ears unaware of which sounds to suppress. This is why it can be so difficult to hear in restaurants, public settings, and more.

Solutions for Hearing Better in Background Noise

We’re thrilled to help you navigate this frustrating problem with hearing loss because we have multiple options to alleviate this stress. Thanks to advancements in hearing aid technology, many people struggling with a hearing loss now have access to tools that enable them to enjoy date night and social outings once again.

  • Obtaining a well-fitted and customized set of hearing aids can correct this problem. Many hearing aids can automatically recognize background noise and will transition to amplify sounds in a beam-like setting – focusing on the person you’re looking at.
  • Some hearing aids have a specific setting for places with lots of background noise. With the push of a button on the back of your device, the hearing aid will enter into restaurant mode and begin filtering out background noises for you.
  • The companion mic is a great tool for carrying on one-on-one conversations in settings with lots of background noise. The person you are speaking to clips the small device onto their shirt or blouse. Then their voice is captured and the sound is transferred directly to your hearing aids.
  • For taking phone calls in scenarios with lots of background noise, we recommend the use of Bluetooth capable hearing aids that pair directly to your smartphone. This transmits the audio output from your phone directly through your hearing aids.
  • When it comes to hearing the doorbell, alarm clocks, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, visual and vibrating alert systems are a great help for those who struggle to differentiate between multiple sounds. So even in your home, with minimal background noise, you can be sure to know when something or someone needs your attention, even if you have the radio or television on.

Hearing & Balance Doctors Can Help You Hear Better in All Environments

The doctors of audiology at Hearing & Balance Doctors of Utah are a great go-to for hearing loss solutions.

Our extensive educational background and licensing allow our doctors of audiology to offer our patients more complete hearing services and access to the most effective hearing loss solutions.

Call us today at (435) 688-8991 for a consultation. We can discuss with you your options for improving lost hearing to restore a better sense of confidence and involvement with friends, family, and the communities to which you belong.


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Dr. Ryan Whitaker

Dr. Whitaker joined Hearing & Balance Doctors of Utah in 2009. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Brigham Young University in 2005 with his Bachelors of Science in Audiology and Speech Pathology. He then received his Doctor of Audiology from the University of Arizona where he minored in Cognitive Neuroscience (the study of how people perceive sound). While at the University of Arizona, he specialized in evoked potentials, specifically researching Cortical Auditory Evoked Potentials and the Acoustic Change Complex. He gained clinical experience at Tucson Ear, Nose, and Throat; St. Joseph’s Hospital Balance Center; Arizona Hearing Specialists; and the Center for Hearing Impaired Children. Dr. Whitaker was raised in Orem, Utah with three older sisters and a younger brother (who is also an audiologist). His grandfather was a cartoonist for the Walt Disney Studios where he drew Donald Duck and many characters in Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland before starting the BYU Motion Picture Studio. Dr. Whitaker is married and has three sons. He is passionate about college football and also enjoys hiking in Southern Utah, reading, and traveling. He has traveled extensively through South Asia including Thailand, India, Nepal, and a church mission to the Philippines.

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