Some hearing aid users report that they feel as if they are in a barrel or experiencing an echo when talking. This is called “the occlusion effect.” Normally, when your ear is unblocked and you are speaking, you hear yourself both through the air traveling through your ear canal, (air conduction) and through vibrations that you create in your skull and ear canal (bone conduction). When your ear is occluded or blocked, however, air conduction transmission is reduced and bone conduction perception enhanced. Try this experiment.
Hum aloud and then alternately plug and unplug one ear while humming. Notice how the sound changes pitch and loudness in your plugged ear? This happens because the vibrations are blocked from their usual escape route. Most new users adapt to this effect and it isn’t a problem. However for some, the following steps might help:
- Keeping the ear as open as possible.
- Reducing the amount of gain (amplified volume) in the low frequencies.
- Using an earmold that fits very deeply into the ear canal so that it contacts with the bony rather than the soft cartilaginous portion (to reduce vibration).
- Using an “open fit” hearing aid, if your loss permits.