Autophonia: “I can hear my own voice!”

March 4, 2013 by Michelle Fournier
During a first hearing aid fitting, many people notice a change in how they perceive their own voice. Their voice is echoed and resonates, as though they can hear themselves talking on a recording or in a tunnel. This phenomenon is called autophonia.

This feeling can be explained by the presence of a foreign body in the external auditory canal: a hearing aid or ear mould (in the case of a behind-the-ear hearing aid) that blocks some of the vibrations of the voice. The idea of perceiving your own voice from the amplification brought on by the hearing aid accentuates this distortion effect, to an extent.

The phenomenon of auto-phonia tends to lessen with daily use of hearing aids over a few weeks.

However, if this effect persists, several solutions are possible to reduce this discomfort. The audioprosthetist can make certain modifications: either acoustically, by reducing the amplification of low frequencies (since occlusion of the auditory canal can amplify the user’s voice by up to 20 dB); or physically, by modifying the case of the ear mould (by making an opening in the air vent, or by increasing or decreasing its length to change the sound output angle, since this may be partially blocked by the walls of the canal).

Certain models of ear mould or open dome hearing aids (Open Fit or RITE) reduce this phenomenon because they only occlude the auditory canal minimally. However, these types of hearing aid are not suitable for all types of hearing loss.

A phenomenon of adaptation

Having a hearing aid for the very first time requires an adaptation period that varies from one person to the next and depends on several factors: the duration of the hearing loss (how long you have had uncorrected hearing loss), the individual’s age, the origin of the loss, etc. You can start wearing a hearing aid progressively, for just a few hours a day. The sound adjustment of hearing aids can also be done gradually in order to progressively adjust the acoustic intensity so the user can gradually (and gently) adapt to the amplification. A follow-up with an audioprosthetist is therefore necessary to make hearing readjustments  as the user adapts to the surrounding sounds.

The phenomenon of auto-phonia is part of readapting to the hearing world. It tends to lessen as the new user adapts to the hearing aids.

To help the adaptation, we suggest wearing the hearing aids while watching television. It is a useful strategy to adopt since the user’s attention is focused on something besides wearing the hearing aids, because he or she is mainly in “listening” mode.

Here are a few tips to help you adapt to your hearing aids:

  • Wear the hearing aids for a few hours each day (at least 3-4 hours the first day) and progressively wear them for one additional hour each day.
  • Favour calmer sound environments at the beginning so as to avoid being too overwhelmed by the amplification of certain sounds (at home, for example, since you are in control of your sound environment).

To find out more about auto­phonia, consult an audioprosthetist at the Lobe Santé auditive et communication multidisciplinary clinics.