Feeling like your ears are plugged and muffled when wearing hearing aids? Don't worry, we've got 4 methods to help you effectively address this issue!
With the advancement of hearing aid technology, these problems have seen significant improvements. Nowadays, hearing aids are becoming more compact, aesthetically pleasing, and discreet. Various noise reduction techniques and fitting methods have also enhanced the sound quality and clarity of hearing aids.
However, there's one problem that continues to trouble many hearing aid users, and that's the "ear occlusion effect." What is this effect, and how can you resolve it?
What is the Ear Occlusion Effect?
When we speak, sound travels to our ears not only through the air but also through bones and soft tissues. This sound transmitted through bones and soft tissues is known as bone-conducted sound, primarily consisting of low-frequency sound energy.
When the ear canal is open, low-frequency sound energy can disperse from the ear canal entrance and doesn't affect our perception of sound. But when the ear canal is blocked by hearing aids, headphones, earplugs, or similar items, this low-frequency sound energy can be reflected back, creating an echo inside the ear canal, increasing sound volume, and causing distortion. This is what makes your own voice sound louder, muffled, and echoey – the ear occlusion effect.
Who is Prone to the Ear Occlusion Effect?
Individuals with a low-frequency hearing loss of less than 40 dB HL. This is because when their ear canals are sealed by hearing aids or custom earmolds, low-frequency bone-conducted sound energy can't be released and bounces back, causing sound to become louder, muffled, and echoey.
People who use custom hearing aids or hearing aids with custom earmolds. This is because their hearing aids or earmolds create a sealed cavity with the ear canal, increasing the accumulation of low-frequency sound energy, resulting in the ear occlusion effect.
Those using headphones, earplugs, or similar items. This is because these items also block the ear canal, hindering the dispersion of low-frequency sound energy, causing the ear occlusion effect.
How to Address the Ear Occlusion Effect?
Method 1: Adjusting Hearing Aid Parameters
If you feel that the sound in your hearing aids is muffled, it may be due to excessive low-frequency gain in your hearing aids, leading to an accumulation of low-frequency sound energy. You can consult a professional fitter to readjust your hearing aid parameters. They can lower the volume of low frequencies, relieving the energy buildup while preserving your ability to distinguish sounds.
Additionally, allow yourself some time to adapt to wearing hearing aids. Initially, there may be some discomfort, but with perseverance, you will gradually get used to them.
Method 2: Change the Tubing or Earplugs
For those using behind-the-ear hearing aids, consider changing the tubing or earplugs. The thickness of the tubing can affect sound energy. Generally, using thinner tubing can reduce sound energy and alleviate the ear occlusion effect.
Earplugs are inserted directly into the ear canal, and their size and openings affect the level of ear canal sealing. Using open or semi-open porous earplugs can release low-frequency energy, reducing the ear occlusion effect. This method is suitable for those with less severe hearing loss.
Method 3: Create Vents or Extend Earmolds
For individuals using custom hearing aids or earmolds with custom earmolds, you can create vents or extend the length of the earmold. Vents are small openings on the hearing aid or earmold that allow the ear canal to communicate with the outside, releasing some low-frequency energy and reducing the ear occlusion effect. Studies show that the acceptability of one's own voice is related to low-frequency gain.
As shown in the figure below, when the vent inner diameter is less than 1mm, it can hardly solve the wearer's ear occlusion effect. When the vent inner diameter reaches 3.5mm, it can effectively alleviate the ear occlusion effect.
Extending the length involves extending the hearing aid or earmold inward to the bony part of the ear canal, reducing the closed cavity formed by the cartilaginous part of the ear canal, reducing the ear occlusion effect. Both of these methods require a professional fitter to perform based on your specific situation and balancing the ear occlusion effect and feedback.
Method 4: Opt for RIC Hearing Aids
RIC hearing aids are an option where the receiver is placed in the ear canal while the rest of the device is positioned behind the ear. These hearing aids can effectively address the ear occlusion effect because they use porous and soft earplugs to disperse low-frequency energy, providing a more natural and comfortable sensation.
However, it's important to note that individuals with recurring middle ear infections may not be suitable for RIC hearing aids, as the receiver can be damaged by ear secretions.
In summary, the sensation of muffled and plugged ears when wearing hearing aids is a common occurrence. The methods mentioned above are designed to help you resolve this issue. Depending on your situation and preferences, you can choose the right hearing aids and accessories or seek assistance from a professional fitter for adjustments and modifications. With patience and confidence, you can find hearing aids that make your listening experience clearer and more comfortable. Explore our cic hearing aids in Chosgo Hearing Aids to bring back the joy of clear, vibrant sound in your life.