The occlusion effect is not a new phenomenon; in fact, it’s been around as long as people have been wearing hearing aids. Sometimes people explain that they feel like they're talking in a barrel, that their voice sounds echoed, or that their voice sounds "hollow" or "boomy". However people describe the ‘occlusion effect’ it’s always their way of explaining that they just don't like the way their own voice sounds. To create an occlusion effect simply plug your ears with your fingers and start talking, your voice will sound like it’s trapped inside your head.
The problems associated with the occlusion effect can be so disturbing that if left unresolved it will often lead to people rejecting hearing aids. For these people, the benefits they receive from amplification are overshadowed by the problems the occlusion effect causes.
An occlusion effect occurs when a hearing aid mostly or completely fills the outer portion of the ear canal. This essentially traps sound inside the ear canal and causes unwanted amplification of sounds generated inside a person’s head. This makes something as simple as talking or eating very uncomfortable.
The people who seem most susceptible to the occlusion effect are those with relatively good hearing at the lower frequencies. These people make up the large majority (over 80%) of people who live with hearing loss in North America. The two most common causes of hearing loss in North America are Noise Damage and Age. These both create a hearing loss that can intensify the occlusion effect.
The best way to reduce or eliminate the occlusion effect is to increase the amount of air inside the ear canal by reducing the amount of space a hearing aid takes up. As you see below, the Open-Fit hearing aid on the left image allows a lot more natural air into the ear canal than the CIC hearing aid does on the right image.
This makes our Open-Fit SmartAid Digital and Open-Fit SmartAid Digital Premium the best choice for people looking to avoid the occlusion effect. If you have either of our Open-Fit Hearing Aids and you are experiencing any ‘occlusion effect’ symptoms, simply replace the ear bud at the bottom of the tube that goes into your ear with a smaller ear bud.
We would like to credit Dr. Mark Ross, Ph.D. from the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Hearing Enhancement on his paper, The “Occlusion Effect” –What it is, and What to Do About it. Although his article first appeared in Jan/Feb 2004 before open-fit hearing aids were invented a lot of what he wrote remains accurate today and has been used throughout this article. A copy of his article can be found here: http://web.archive.org/web/20070806184522/http://www.hearingresearch.org/Dr.Ross/occlusion.htm