I do well with hearing aids in normal conversations (I’m now wearing Siemens Motion Binax), but restaurants are still impossible. I know this is a common problem, but I’d like some advice. I end up removing my HAs, which is a lot more comfortable, but I miss much of the conversation. Any ideas?

I think the issue is that the traditional way of solving the problem in noisy restaurants by traditional HAs work for some but may not work for others.

The traditional way is to use directional mics to pick up sound in front of you only, and thereby not pick up sound from behind and besides you, or blocking it. Sound from behind and besides you are considered noise, so they label this as noise reduction. But it’s really not noise reduction in terms of being able to truly separate and removing noise from speech. It’s just labeled as noise reduction by virtue of removing the sounds around you and only leave the sound in front available.

OK, so I guess this does help a little bit. BUT, it’s not like the sound (and ultimately, speech) coming from your front is completely clean either. It is just as polluted with noise just the same, because the noise is all around you, in the front as well. But at least you have to deal with less now (only what’s in front of you). For some people, this is enough help for them deal with it and manage to separate the noise from the polluted speech, using their brain hearing, to understand what’s being said. But not everyone can do this (clean up polluted speech with their brain hearing). I guess you’re one of those latter people.

One of the biggest challenge that the HA industry has never really been able to solve (at least until recently by Oticon) is exactly that -> truly have the ability to really remove noise from speech to improve speech clarity. I’ll call this TRUE noise reduction, just to differentiate against the directional noise reduction label as explained above. Normal hearing people can do this TRUE noise reduction simply by using their brain hearing power. Some hearing impaired people can also do this TRUE noise reduction because they still have some innate brain hearing power left in them. These are the people who do well with the traditional HAs approach of using directional noise reduction. But then there are others who just can’t manage to achieve this TRUE noise reduction using their brain hearing power, unless they get some help from the HAs.

The reason that TRUE noise reduction is a difficult problem to be solved with HAs is because traditional HAs had not been fast and powerful enough. In order to truly separate and remove noise from speech, you have to be able to take a sample snap shot of the sound signature of the noise and the sound signature of the speech, find the differences between them, and remove these differences that is seen in the noise signature, leaving only the speech signature behind. But if the HA is too slow (does not have a fast enough processing speed), it can only look at the long term sound signatures of noise and speech. Unfortunately, the long term sound signatures of both noise and speech almost always look the same because you’re looking from too far above. And if they look the same, you can’t find any differences to remove.

But if you can really speed up the sampling and take a much shorter term sample snap shot of the noise signature and speech signature, you can start to see different characteristics in their sound signatures beginning to appear more clearly. It’s like looking through a microscope, the more you zoom in, the more you see things in much more details. Once you zoom in enough to see discernible differences, you can now know what to remove (the noise) and what to keep (the speech).

So the reason I’ve gone around and about trying to explain all this in a very long post here is to set the stage to tell you that I think you can probably benefit from an HA that can do this TRUE noise reduction for you. Obviously you don’t do well with the traditional directional noise reduction HA because you have a hard time separating the noise from the speech (even if it’s only what’s in front of you) using your brain hearing power. And your traditional HA can’t separate the noise from the speech for you either. So what you need is an HA that can help give you this kind of TRUE noise reduction.

I would suggest you try out the Oticon OPN because as far as I know, it’s the only HA in the market today that has the ability to do this. The only reason it can do this is because there’s finally a fast enough platform that enables it to go in and do this TRUE noise reduction at 100 times per second, on a moment to moment basis. During this very short 10 ms interval, it can finally see enough differences in the sound signatures between the noise and the speech to be able to know how to do TRUE noise reduction. And it does it again the next 10 ms, and so on, repeatedly cleaning up noise from speech up to 100 times per second. The end result for you is much better speech clarity in noisy environments like at restaurants. So maybe you should give the Oticon OPN a try to see if it’ll work out better for you than your old HAs.

You have a similar loss to mine and you say your experience is impossible. Does that mean impossible in that you cannot hear anything ? Even speakers close to you ? Even when there isn’t music ?

You have a binax, so it should be doing something in noise. You may need readjustments.

I know many are fans of the Oticon Opns, but it’s interesting that the ratings on are rather mixed. I suspect it’s best to keep expectations modest and you’re more likely to be satisfied.

I’ve always had trouble in restaurants and restaurant-like noise situations with my CIC’s. I just recently changed to the Widex Beyond in a RIC, and for the first time ever, I was able to clearly hear the people directly across from me without a lot of straining. You may simply just want to try different brands of aids and see if someone has a technology that works best for you.
I have a Siemens Aquaris for use when we’re going to be in the water all day, and I hate that thing in a restaurant, it does very poorly. Perhaps this is also a Siemens thing?

I guess impossible is an exaggeration. If the speaker is right next to me, it is okay. But if there are several people at the table, especially if the restaurant is noisy, it is very difficult to wear my hearing aids, and I end up getting a headache from all the sound. So I take them out and struggle to hear what I can. I hate asking people to repeat. I have had a few adjustments and it hasn’t helped that much. I can’t really complain because these are great hearing aids in most situations.

Thanks for the response. We have similar losses. Yours appears to be a little more, although I am heading in that direction. Does the Oticon OPN make such a difference, especially with your considerable high frequency hearing loss?

Do you think unaided folks in a noisy restaurant sitting at a larger table can hear folks a couple of seats away… That’s way restaurants are so noisy everyone keeps yelling so they can be heard.

Get your default program tuned and use your spatial focus. Sitting at the head of the table helps.

I agree with Doc Jake. Noisy restaurants are best avoided. I could hear everybody but my daughter recently when we ate in a noisy restaurant. I was trying to adjust my hearing aids to compensate without success. Then I asked my 32 year old son with normal hearing if he could hear her. Nope. Hearing aids can’t work miracles.

If you get a headache from all the sound in a restaurant, there may be an adjustment period if you decide to try out the Oticon OPN because in its normal mode of operation, it doesn’t remove all the sounds and let you focus on the front of you only. That’s how it’s mainly different from traditional HAs. It only helps clean up the noise from the speech, but as soon as the speech stops, you’ll hear all the noise again. So it requires that you accept that new paradigm and be willing to hear everything and let your brain sort out what you want to focus on. It does have a traditional directional mode, however, to let you make the transition gradually. But it may take a month or two before your brain gets used to this new paradigm of hearing everything.

So it’s hard to say how well you will do with the Oticon OPN because there’s a difference between not liking to hear too much sound because it gives you a headache, vs being OK with handling all the sounds and just need to be able to understand speech better in all the noise. For people who can do the latter (being able to handle all the sounds), the Oticon can make a difference to them. For people who can’t handle too much sound, it may make it worse, unless they’re willing to try it out and give it time to let their brain adjust to it.

Very true that hearing aids can’t work miracles in any environment, it can only help so much and you need to manage your expectation accordingly.

It also depends very much on the person. Even some people with normal hearing just don’t like noisy places, while others can manage OK in it.

This is very true. I had very high expectation of the Oticon OPNs coming in because of all the marketing hype, and I was very disappointed when it didn’t meet my expectation. If I had given a review on it within the first few weeks of wearing it, I would have given it a low rating. In fact if you had read my initial posts here about the OPN, they were fairly negative.

But then I tried to understand why and how it’s different because I wouldn’t believe that it was all just marketing hype. Besides, there were positive reviews from many folks. Once I understood better the differences, I accepted that this is a new way of hearing through an HA, and decided to stick with it. A month later my brain started to adjust to it better and better that I started noticing the improvement.

I think for anyone who wants to try out the Oticon OPN, they need to understand and embrace the “open” paradigm and not be turned off by it. They need to be willing to give time to let their brain adjust to it before they can reap the full benefit. The Oticon OPN can only bring the sounds to you (and help with the clarity in the process), but it’s your brain hearing that needs to do the work to make the OPN effective for you.

I have a old pair of Resound Vivids from Costco that are absolutely amazing in restaurant situations. When I went to get them adjusted with a different HIS at Costco I told her I needed a “good restaurant program!” She hit it out of the park, when I wear these in the restaurant and put it into the restaurant program basically all the background noise is gone and all I hear are those at the table I am at and maybe the table next to me. I’m not sure what she adjusted but I will try and find out and post it here.

Thanks Doc Jake. Most of my normal hearing friends don’t seem to have too much trouble in restaurants. I like your idea of sitting at the head of the table. That s easy enough to do.

Wow! I’d love to see the program%. I don’t want to give up my Siemens Motions, but I have no problem carrying a second set of hearing aids just for that purpose. I usually keep a spare pair nearby anyway.

If I try the OPN, can I still use my regular Siemens or do I have to commit to the adjustment.

I guess that all of us who wear hearing aids suffer in restaurants or similar spaces when lots of people are talking. Some places are worse than others. I too have taken my hearing aids out when the noise is just too loud to hear anything.

I have found that my audiologists don’t really understand the problem because they do not use hearing aids. So they fool with directional modifications and sound reduction, but these changes do not really help very much. I have had trouble convincing them that the restaurant program on my hearing aids leaves much to be desired. I have tried to get them to switch from the restaurant program to the noisy party program, but they are reluctant to try it. My previous hearing aids (Linx 42) had been set to the noisy party program rather than the restaurant program, but that too did not work in VERY loud settings. I will go back and try again to get my audiologists to reprogram my current hearing aids with the noisy party program.

Thanks for the detailed, intelligent responses, and thanks for starting the thread. It is always comforting to know that I am not alone with some of these on-going issues.

I’d think you are the final arbiter for settings. Additionally, aids typically have an option for at least 3 additional programs. Put the Restaurant on 2 and the Noise on 3 which will let them throw in a Music on 4.

I have and many have noise problems. Seems to go with the rising level for understanding. When the noise is greater than a voice, we have trouble understanding. For many of us there is a 60DB difference in that against normal hearing.

I have locations that are next to impossible. You aren’t alone.

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this one. My Agilpros are set up by an audiologist who doesn’t wear HA’s and has no clue what hearing loss is; she just goes by what the computer tells her to do and that’s about it. On the otherhand my Resound Vivids from Costco were set up by a HIS who wears HA’s and trully understands the problems we face and from my experience knows how to set up HA’s to work in very noisy situations.

Thanks for that lovely comment. Of course, I know intellectually that restaurants are a problem. Still, is extremely comforting to know that other hearing impaired people have the exact same experiences.

I try to be really careful where I sit and whom I’m likely to talk to. I sometimes make it known that I am hard of hearing, and people are usually accommodating. The worst of course are weddings where my aids are useless. My wife will write a note or talk into my ear and clue me into what is going on.

Audiologists can only do so much with the available programs. The technology has come a long way, but there is a long way left to go. On the whole, though, I can’t complain, because I get a great deal out of my hearing aids.