What to ask for in a HA for speech?

The more I read…the more confused I get
I need HAs to hear my spouse…
I had read that Siemens had new technology that made speech better than even some people without HAs.

I’m not really interested in hearing TV, phones, music, etc…just speech

What HAs have the best background noise cancelling? directional mics? … I don’t even know what to ask

I just want to hear what my spouse is saying to me as best as I can.

Can you guys please give me a hand with this?


All hearing aids are designed to amplify speech, but they also amplify background sounds such as environmental noises and other speakers in the vicinity. The higher-end models have technologies which can help reduce unwanted sounds in noisy situations such as parties and restaurants. If you’re in a quiet situation most of the time, a basic hearing aid will work fine.

At first you say all you want is to hear your spouse. That should make you the easiest person in the world to please, as just about any hearing would do.

But later you asked about background noise and directional mikes, so it starts to get more complicated. Perhaps you’re just saying that you don’t know if these things are important to hearing your spouse. Is that correct? As rasmus_braun was saying, a lot of this depends on your lifestyle, are you a home-body, or do you spend a lot of time in restaurants or at cocktail parties? All that can make a difference. Perhaps you could fill us in a little bit.

For me, I needed to hear my spouse, but I also needed to hear my fellow employees in meetings, and I play drums, and I talk on the phone a lot, and I wanted Bluetooth connectivity. So it was a bit more complicated. You don’t seem to be concerned about these things, so I really think you would be happy with almost any hearing aid. But a lot of that also depends on your particular hearing loss.

My personal opinion is to make sure the provider you visit offers Real Ear Testing (My audiologist calls it Live Speech Mapping, but it’s basically the same thing). You haven’t post your audiogram in your signature, have you had your hearing tested yet? Many places will offer a free hearing test, but be aware they will try to do the hard sell at the same time.

Thanks rasmus…seems we’re never in a “quiet” situation
Either in the car, on the porch with the wind blowing, birds singing, neighborhood yard service, working outside…

What “higher-end” models are new? which have the latest/best technology?
What in this world do I ask for when I go to get tested and fitted?
Othen than just tell them I need to hear people talk no matter what or where??
…I honestly do not know


We’d all love to hear talk – no matter what/where. It isn’t going to happen. The ear/mind in pristine state are always superior. Background noise is an early indicator of hearing loss. Computers don’t think – certainly not to the degree we do. They calculate. The human mind has yet to be surmounted.

That said, the premium aids try to adjust sound to make it a better experience. But you’ll always have situations where noise wins.

You should have better speech recognition in most instances. At tim es it will be a problem. At home you should do great. In the normal office, slightly less. In a raucous situation, keep your fingers crossed.

All the aids are current. Once a year the manufactures try to tell us we are behind the curve – announced at some major convention of audiologist. Understand that the curve is very incremental these days. It is as much hype as the advance they claim. People show up here with ten year old aids and say they are better than what they are trying to sell them. They are use to the sound and their mind adjusted.

If your current word recognition scores are good, you’re likely to do fine after wearing them for an extended period – regardless of brand. They all make hearing aids that work.

Squerly, I think what you’re saying is exactly right. When you see the hearing aid fitter just say you need to be able to hear your spouse. It’s the fitter’s job to know what technology will help you accomplish that. If you and I try to memorize the jargon and specify that we need Bidirectional Inverse MegaSound Mummification (I made that up) we just complicate things. Let the fitter wade through the jargon; you’re only interested in the results.

It will help if you can tell the fitter about where you listen to your spouse. Do you take a lot of walks together? Long drives? Do you go to concerts and movies? I think it’s lovely that hearing your spouse is a priority, but I think communication is best if both of you are hearing the sounds around you – that’s what gives you something to talk about.

Thank you all so much…especially Daisy! Bidirectional Inverse MegaSound Mummification made me laugh, I probably would have fallen for it if you didn’t say you made it up!
You’re right…I don’t even know enough about HA’s to be dangerous, and need to find a place I trust and let them decide.
Neither one of us watch TV, we don’t listen to music together (spouse has dynamite over the top head phones), movie theater is too far away, we both have night blindness so we don’t drive after dark, but we both work which requires a lot of driving in the car together during the day…

Seems it all leads me to another question though…who to trust??
HearUSA is the closest “full service” kinda place we have.
Have you guys heard anything about them?

Thank you all!

Squerly, I talked with a salesman at HearUSA the other day. AARP advertises a 20% discount on hearing aids if you buy through HearUSA. I called AARP and they connected me with the HearUSA guy in my area. He sounded knowledgeable. He said they sell mostly Siemen’s hearing aids, but they also carry some Phonaks and ReSounds. Those are all major brands and they are perfectly good hearing aids. I think you are wise to stay away from MiracleEar and places like that.

I think all sellers will do a free hearing test. I would urge you to insist on getting a copy of the results. Without a written copy of your hearing profile you’ll be at a big disadvantage when you try to figure out what you’re buying and what your choices are. And I think understanding our hearing loss is just part of owning the problem and taking charge of it. When you know the results you can post them here and then you’ll get lots of feedback from others with a loss like yours.

I’ve lived in very remote places in the past, and I sure appreciate the logistical problems involved! Even so, when you plan your next trip to the big city, I would feel better if you put a visit with an ENT and his audiologist on your list of things to do there. Part of the reason is to make sure you’ve gotten an impartial opinion on your hearing loss, and especially to get a reason for your hearing loss. For most people its just something that happens with age, but for some there are causes that could be mitigated or even reversed – so I think it’s worthwhile to get one visit with a doctor. I realize you really don’t want to do that before buying aids, and if the HearUSA fitter fits you with an aid which works, then your biggest job may be done.

Please do keep in mind with the hearing aids you’ll be hearing lots of stuff you haven’t heard for a long time, and your brain will need time to adjust. It took us a lot of time to get used to not hearing a lot of stuff, and with aids that process is reversed.

Daisy, thank you so much again…I really mean that
You’re right, I need to start at step one…and that’s a trip to a good ENT…now, just finding one
I’m going to do that first…I do have a weird problem with my hearing

After dinner I have a habit of drinking a glass of milk…a certain way I swallow…my hearing comes back 100% in my left ear
Just for a second or two…but I can hear the dishwasher, TV, talking, everything…just like normal

I’m using a Bellman and Symfon personal amplifier now, almost all the time. It was the only one I could find that cancels out background noise. It really is a good one. I had to buy high end ear buds with a wider frequency range to make it work for me.

I’ve been waiting on HAs until they came out with something that would cancel background noise. When I read about the new Siemens, that’s when I decided to take the plunge.

I’m not really used to being that quiet, because of the Bellman…well and the fact that my spouse seems to have something to say every 2 mins!!! LOL
…and I don’t want to miss any of that

Thank you for your consideration, I really appreciate it, you’ve helped me more than I can even explain

I’ll be surprised if I’m the only one to say this, but that right there indicates a very strong need to see an ENT. You may not need hearing aids at all, sounds to me like you’ve got something else going on in there.

All hearing is in your brain. Your ear is just a data collection device. The sound hits your eardrum, which vibrates three little bones, which transmits signals into the cochlea. Nerves in the cochlea send that data to the brain. When we have hearing loss, it’s because some part of the data collection device is worn down or damaged, typically the cochlea. It can no longer collect the sounds adequately to pass them to the brain.

What your saying is that occasionally, under the right circumstances, the ear does collect that data and pass it to the brain. That means that the cochlea’s inner workings are all still good. Something is blocking the sound from making it to your cochlea.

I’m certainly no doctor, so somebody correct me if anything I said is wrong. But I certainly think a visit to a good ENT is top priority. And with what you just said, I’d be willing to travel to do that.

I totally agree with BlueCrab – the fact that you can sometimes hear in your left ear makes it a high priority to see an ENT and find out what’s going on.

I would recommend seeing an AuD first and having tymps, audiometry, and Eustacian Tube Dysfunction tests done. If the AuD sees certain indicators, they will refer you to an ENT. If not, then it is likely a perceptual issue not a medical one. Maybe get a second opinion from another AuD just to see if what they say corroborates one another.

You can go to an ENT directly if the provide in house audiology services. But if they don’t, they will probably refer you to an audiologist anyways to get the tests above done.

I like what Daisymae said about results. It IS ABOUT THE RESULTS, not the jargon.

That being said, not all hearing aids are the same. They WILL all help. But that does not mean they will all help as much. The only way to know for sure how much any given pair helps is to have testing done with the devices to compare the measured results. Do not rely on your perception. I had a patient in today that is on day 75 and said they think their new devices don’t help any more than their old ones. So we did some verification testing. Unaided, he scored 8% word recognition. With his old devices he scores 54% (That sounds like a big improvement…). With his new devices he scored 76% (…Until you see what his new devices do). And his potential word recognition was 84% (…which we will achieve in one more month of adaptation, which I had already set the expectation for.)

I always recommend that you make sure your AuD show you these kinds of percentages. If they cannot, then they did not do proper testing.

Just…what is a AuD? and how do I find one? are they in the yellow pages??

Long story…I went diving with a friend I was teaching…while I had a stuffed up head
I had to get to him in a hurry…and could not clear my ears fast enough
There was some pain…but then I’m not a good judge of pain…I seem to have an extremely high threshold
…after that, my hearing gradually went away

If you don’t mind…I’m going to copy what you’ve said and take it with me so I don’t forget.

Thanks a million

An AuD is an audiologist who can do all the tests required to determine your hearing loss and type/likely causes. Sounds like you need to see an audiologist for testing and an ENT to check you out as well. You don’t say how long ago the incident was and you should have sought help when it happened but at least go now and get a comprehensive check and find out if anything else can be done. If you just need HAs then you will at least be off to a good start.

There are several terms you will run into as you do your research:

ENT - Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor, also known as an Otolaryngologist. Your ears, nose, and throat are all intricately connected and affect each other in numerous ways. This doctor is highly specialized to diagnose and treat abnormal conditions of this system.

AuD - Audiologist - Some are Doctors, having a PhD in Audiology, and some have a Master’s Degree. They are trained specifically in the area of hearing and balance (since balance is controlled in your ears).

HIS - Hearing Instrument Specialist - Trained in the dispensing, fitting, and programming of hearing aids. Typically have a two-year degree. You want someone who has BC-HIS after their name, indicating Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist.

You should visit each one in that order, which is exactly the route I took. I visited an ENT who had an AuD in his office. He pretty much looked in my ears, and gave me the okay. You want to see the ENT to make sure you’re not dealing with something horrific like cancer of the ear. He is trained to spot that kind of stuff.

Next I went down the hall to the AuD. She sat me in the soundproof booth and performed the Audiogram. That’s where you put on headphones, and press the little button every time you hear a tone. That’s where we get the numbers you see in our signatures. Be sure you get a copy of your audiogram, that’s vital. You could skip the AuD and go straight to the HIS, who can perform the exact same test, but some people have a little more confidence in the training of the AuD. Your choice.

Now, you could stop here, and buy your aids from the AuD. I myself suffered a little sticker shock and ran away. I’m glad I did. She was a little cold and impersonal, and offered me very few choices. I shopped around and ended up with a fantastic HIS. I’ve saved a little money and, more importantly, found someone who I feel like is a partner in solving my hearing issues. Someone I feel comfortable sitting down and chatting with.

So, ultimately, you have to decide what you are going to do. But some of us here are suggesting you start with the ENT specifically because of the issue you brought up about being able to hear under certain very specific conditions. That comment really worried me. I don’t know what kind of insurance you have, but my visit to the ENT and AuD combined cost me $16.

Blue Crab and Carol, thank you.

I haven’t been able to log on to the forum for a few days

I’m in the process of finding a ENT and then on from there. As soon as I know something, I’ll let you know.

Again, can’t thank you all enough


Can you post your audiogram? It might help.

Squerly, there are no bad aids. You (subjectively) might prefer one over the other but they all can give a user a better life experience. Its like OSX and Windows that have their adherents and detractors. The only way for you to know what works is to trial an aid and if you think you could do better try another. You need to trial for probably 30 days to get the real feel for what works.


The short-term hearing improvement from swallowing, yawning, or popping your ears is well known and essentially meaningless. I read somewhere (perhaps on this forum) that it is a result of temporarily tensioning the ear drum and causing an increase in mechanical response to sound. I don’t know if that is true, but I have long been able to temporarily “improve” my hearing by gently popping my ears. I just saw an ENT and an Au.D., and there was no diagnosis other than typical old-age hearing decline.

I should add that the temporary effect only seems to improve loudness; it does not make the high frequencies come back. Popping is also potentially risky for shooting bad stuff up your e-tubes.

Like others in this thread I recommend seeing an ENT to make sure there are no medical issues, but I doubt that your swallowing experience will be anything to worry about.

Thanks Ken…and thank you Gene
I have a tentative appointment in two weeks…sooner if they have an opening.
I decided to first find a ENT or place that sells higher end HAs…
It’s only about 2 hours drive one way!

Will let you know what the results are.
Thank you all so much!!