Music and Hearing Aids
Music is universal to mankind. It evokes nostalgia, memories and feelings. It connects us. It appears everywhere, with or without words. Whether it’s a live concert, as background noise or in the car, music makes life more enjoyable.
As Audiologists we meet patients whose primary goal is to hear again. To hear friends and family in various environments and to understand speech better, so that they can participate in those conversations. So of course, this has been the strong focus of the hearing aid industry. The top priority for hearing aid manufacturers has been to have the best speech enhancers, directional microphones, feedback and noise cancellation features. The basis of a hearing aid is to distinguish between speech and noise. The goal is to reduce the noise while enhancing speech. This is done by amplifying soft and normal conversational speech adequately while providing minimal amplification on loud speech. These features help people understand speech even in noisy environments better.
We also meet patients who are either musicians or they express their love for music, and it is an essential role in their lives. They want to continue enjoying music, but their hearing loss poses a challenge.
While all those features mentioned above are working to help with speech, they can have a negative impact on music. Music has a wider range of volume and frequency; it has a variety of sounds and may or may not include lyrics. Sounds that are typically “noise” in one setting might be desirable another setting. Music also differs greatly across instrument types, compositional styles, and ensemble. Historically, hearing aids have treated music the same as speech, using the same speech processing technology. This causes some of the musical nuances to be lost. For example, the hearing aid often reduces a sudden, loud impulse noise (i.e., door slam, cutlery), but that sudden change in volume may be a desired part of the music you are listening to! Therefore, enjoying music requires appropriate settings to preserve the fidelity of the sound.
Understanding these needs and feedback from musicians in mind, has changed the world of hearing aids in how they work with music. They are literally delivering music to people’s ears! Hearing aid manufacturers are now able to provide outstanding music sound quality and improves listener’s experiences for those with hearing losses.
Many manufacturers now have music programs, specifically designed to allow sound to come through, with less distortion to the music’s sound quality. The music program will disengage noise suppression features, directional microphones, and frequency-lowering features to name a few. Disengaging these features, will allow the sounds to pass through without many modifications, this will help conserve the quality of the music. Some manufacturers can go as far as telling the difference between classical and contemporary music and adjust accordingly – which is fascinating!
The best hearing aids for music share certain features and can handle a broader range of sounds levels and frequencies. A wide dynamic range allows for more realistic sounds to come through without many adjustments. Listening to live music will have certain adjustments in comparison to listening to music through Bluetooth streaming.
With so many considerations in mind for music lovers it is important to have access to multiple brands. It is essential you communicate your music needs and preferences to your Audiologist. Having these detailed discussions, help your Audiologist find the right options for you. We, at Victorian Hearing take the time to understand your listening goals and tailor make solutions to suit your needs. Being an independent clinic, we have access to all the current technology available in the market across all manufacturers. This allows us to give you options. We constantly engage ourselves in professional development activities to expand our knowledge.
We also have regular meetings with our colleagues to brainstorm the nuances between various products in the market. Hearing aids can significantly affect the quality of your life. Being able to appreciate music is the cherry on the cake. The key is to choose a hearing aid that meets your needs and fine-tune the music program to your preferences.