Hearing Aids for Musicians

I received an interesting email from a gentleman the other day who was a musician and audio engineer, so his entire life revolves around music.

The gentleman had worn analog hearing aids for over a decade and loved them, but after losing them had tried 4 different digital hearing aids with no success.

His problem was (as is the case with many musicians), all the digital hearing aids he tried sounded distorted and just did not replicate musical sounds properly.

There are a few reasons why this happens, which we’ll get in to below.

As you can imagine, this has been a huge problem for not only his personal enjoyment of music, but his livelihood.

For any of our readers that have this same problem, I wanted to share a few of the things that we talked about, as well as mention a particular hearing aid that might be worth trying out if music plays a large role in your life.

Why does music sound distorted through hearing aids?

For many people, music (and live music in particular), does not sound very good when wearing hearing instruments.

Hearing aids may sound distorted and unnatural, with certain notes or entire sections of pieces being completely inaudible.

Part of the problem here is that hearing aids are designed with the goal of accurately processing the acoustic characteristics of speech, not music- and the acoustic characteristics of music and speech are quite different from each other.

For example, the usual speech range is between 30 dB and 85 dB, so there is a general range of about 50 dB.

Music on the other hand, has a range of about 100 dB, and this wide range is very difficult for hearing aids to efficiently process.

In trying to process this loud input, many hearing aids run into problems, and here’s why:

In short, distortion/clarity problems arise because of a change in newer digital technology as compared to older analog aids.

This change is related to a device inside the hearing aid called the analog to digital converter.

This device is in all digital hearing aids and its job is to turn sounds into digits for the hearing aid to process.

When music or other sounds are too loud, this analog to digital converter gets overwhelmed and distortion occurs.

Is there a solution?

While many people that wear hearing aids will simply say that music just sounds better when they remove their hearing aids, you may want to consider some of the recommendations below before you give up on listening to music entirely with your hearing aids.

Consider trying a different hearing aid

In the past few years new technology has emerged which aims to address these problems.

If you are wearing hearing aids that are more than a few years old you might consider trialing some newer technology.

For instance, Widex has a relatively new technology available called True Input™, which is proven to help musicians receive an amplified signal that is effectively distortion free.

Below is a neat video from Widex which may help you get a better idea of what this technology is actually doing.

In effect, it is raising the ceiling of sounds that the hearing aid can efficiently process, so loud sound (like music) is not distorted.

See if your hearing provider can designate a “music” program on your hearing aid

If you’re not sure, ask your hearing provider if your hearing aid can be configured with multiple programs or memories.

Many hearing aids today come preset from the manufacturer with an optional “music” program, in which certain changes are made to the sound processing which can make music sound better.

When you switch your hearing aids to the music program, it will often times disable many of the automatic features of the hearing aids and adjust the feedback reduction.

This helps the hearing aid to work in a more “linear” fashion, i.e., what comes in comes out, and the sound is less processed.

Try putting a piece of scotch tape over your hearing aid microphones while listening to music

While this tip is more anecdotal, many people report that putting a small piece of tape over their hearing aid microphones while playing or listening to music can greatly soften the sound and reduce the distortion.

Be sure to pull the tape off when you are done!

Have your own tips or tricks?

Please post a comment below and let our readers know how you are doing with your hearing aids in music, and any tips you might suggest!

Jeff is a California licensed hearing aid dispenser and the President of ZipHearing- one of the largest discount hearing aid suppliers in the United States. Jeff lives in San Diego, CA with his wife and 2 young daughters. You can learn more about hearing aids and watch Jeff on ZipHearing's Youtube channel.

Recommended for you

7 Comments

    Tom Harleman

    Reply
    at 6:40 am

    I play multiple instruments. I started with analog ITE (in the ear) aids in the 1990’s. They had 3 controls; volume, treble and bass. My problem was with the audiologists. They could never get them set correctly. I began changing the treble and bass myself until I was satisfied. When they failed I could find no one to fix them. After a frustrating search finding nothing as good, I finally purchased Audibel DaVinci ITE devices. I’ve had them for 15 years. I’ve been through 4 audiologists, none of whom wore aids. I found one who could make the devices acceptable. But I would constantly have to remind him of what he changed to make them work. Number one, I had him turn off all automatic adjustments that he could. Then I had him make MUSIC the default program. I never used the other programs. I tried newer devices from him and ZipHearing. But the devices are too automatic. And neither audiologist could satisfy me. So I returned them. I don’t think devices are smart enough to read my mind. My hearing is good a low frequencies and drops off in a straight line to the higher frequencies. I really wish I could find an analog device that has a multi-channel mixer where I can set each frequency to an acceptable level. Maybe devices should be designed and dispensed by people who need them and understand how the users feel.

    I play multiple instruments. I started with analog ITE (in the ear) aids in the 1990’s. They had 3 controls; volume, treble and bass. My problem was with the audiologists. They could never get them set correctly. I began changing the treble and bass myself until I was satisfied. When they failed I could find no one to fix them. After a frustrating search finding nothing as good, I finally purchased Audibel DaVinci ITE devices. I’ve had them for 15 years. I’ve been through 4 audiologists, none of whom wore aids. I found one who could make the devices acceptable. But I would constantly have to remind him of what he changed to make them work. Number one, I had him turn off all automatic adjustments that he could. Then I had him make MUSIC the default program. I never used the other programs. I tried newer devices from him and ZipHearing. But the devices are too automatic. And neither audiologist could satisfy me. So I returned them. I don’t think devices are smart enough to read my mind. My hearing is good a low frequencies and drops off in a straight line to the higher frequencies. I really wish I could find an analog device that has a multi-channel mixer where I can set each frequency to an acceptable level. Maybe devices should be designed and dispensed by people who need them and understand how the users feel.

    Gary Gegan

    Reply
    at 1:30 pm

    I am a retired motion picture sound designer and musician with moderate hearing loss. The biggest problem I have is with phase cancelation from the combining of processed an direct sound caused by digital latency. 5-6 msec latency is acceptable for speech but significantly affects music and sounds that have elements resembling white noise. Do you know of any high analog aids or digital aids with less than 2-3 msecs of latency?

    I am a retired motion picture sound designer and musician with moderate hearing loss. The biggest problem I have is with phase cancelation from the combining of processed an direct sound caused by digital latency. 5-6 msec latency is acceptable for speech but significantly affects music and sounds that have elements resembling white noise. Do you know of any high analog aids or digital aids with less than 2-3 msecs of latency?

    rich morris

    Reply
    at 11:43 am

    thanks…. am a pro musician & teacher semi-retired out of L.A.
    Haven’t purchased these yet, but I love the attitude and consideration for all musicians
    Rich out of L.A…. Calif Institute of the Arts w/B.M. music theory/pro guitarist & teacher

    thanks…. am a pro musician & teacher semi-retired out of L.A.
    Haven’t purchased these yet, but I love the attitude and consideration for all musicians
    Rich out of L.A…. Calif Institute of the Arts w/B.M. music theory/pro guitarist & teacher

    Helen

    Reply
    at 7:09 pm

    Thanks for such an interesting article. .I play the piano and the harp at home for my own enjoyment. I’m just an amateur musician. I wear hearing aids and they’re ok for conversations. However, when I play the harp wearing the aids the sound is terrible. Without aids I cant hear the treble well and can’t really judge the volume. The piano isn’t so bad, it sounds too loud with aids but I can manage. will talk with my hearing consultant but fear the cost will be prohibitive. .Regards; Helen

    Thanks for such an interesting article. .I play the piano and the harp at home for my own enjoyment. I’m just an amateur musician. I wear hearing aids and they’re ok for conversations. However, when I play the harp wearing the aids the sound is terrible. Without aids I cant hear the treble well and can’t really judge the volume. The piano isn’t so bad, it sounds too loud with aids but I can manage. will talk with my hearing consultant but fear the cost will be prohibitive. .Regards; Helen

    tauqir

    Reply
    at 9:24 am

    I am a GP doctor using mind 440 IIC aid in both ear but feel difficulty to use stethoscope because of too much feedback. i feel that tuning not done well enough . my work place is remote site so unable to approach my dealer
    but if i get tuning device(name ) with software tuning program then it will spark my life…need comments about device / suitable stethoscope. thanks

    I am a GP doctor using mind 440 IIC aid in both ear but feel difficulty to use stethoscope because of too much feedback. i feel that tuning not done well enough . my work place is remote site so unable to approach my dealer
    but if i get tuning device(name ) with software tuning program then it will spark my life…need comments about device / suitable stethoscope. thanks

    curt

    Reply
    at 9:12 am

    I am still in the 30 day free trial of my Lyric hearing aid but i cant believe how it does so many things well…including music.

    i would highly recommend them even though they are “old” analog technology!! at the end of the day dont we want the best hearing we can get??

    I am still in the 30 day free trial of my Lyric hearing aid but i cant believe how it does so many things well…including music.

    i would highly recommend them even though they are “old” analog technology!! at the end of the day dont we want the best hearing we can get??

      Jeff Hall

      Reply
      at 9:59 am

      Thanks for your comment Curt. For interested readers, you can learn more about the Lyric here.

      Thanks for your comment Curt. For interested readers, you can learn more about the Lyric here.

Leave a Comment