Emily Martinson, Au.D., Ph.D.
For most people with hearing loss, background noise is an ever-present issue. Whether you are in a restaurant, at a party, or at a sporting event, background noise can make having a conversation challenging.
Many hearing aids combat the issue of background noise through the use of directional microphones. All hearing aids have microphones, which pick up the sound so that it can be processed by the hearing aid. While picking up sound from all around you works great in many situations, in background noise, often the conversation is coming from in front of you while the noise is behind you.
Directional microphones emphasize just what is in front of you to help with background noise. Essentially, the microphone points forward. A good example of this feature is in a restaurant with friends. The background noise of the room (such as pots and pans, conversation at other tables, doors opening and closing, etc.) can easily drown out the conversation.
Hearing aids users should position themselves so that the conversation is in front of them (where the microphone picks up more), with the rest of the restaurant to their back (where the microphone picks up less). A great way to do this is by choosing a table near the wall. The hearing aid user should position himself or herself facing the wall, with the rest of their group having their backs to the wall. That way, there is less background noise in front of you, and only the conversation is to your front.