Missing out on the intricacies of music, including understanding the lyrics and being able to identify new instruments, is a common complaint made by many with hearing loss. While hearing aids have always been designed to help, it is only recently that newer hearing aids have fixed many of their design flaws that made listening to music unpleasant.
Why Hearing Aids Had Issues with Music
Music covers a large, dynamic range including soft passages and loud bursts. While speech ranges between 30 to 85 decibels, music covers a range of about 100 decibels. There are also more frequencies in music than in speech. A piano alone has a 40 percent bigger range in frequencies than a female voice.
Since hearing aids were previously only designed to assist with speech recognition, these large ranges would sound distorted. Over the last few years hearing aids have gotten better at processing music.
Common Hearing Aid Problems
Below are some issues you may experience when listening to music with hearing aids.
Low Frequency Loss
Those with the most common type of hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, typically lose their ability to hear high frequencies first. Because of this, hearing aids are usually programmed to focus on these higher frequencies in order to help hear better in conversations and be able to distinguish sounds. While this helps with speech understanding, it ignores the lower frequencies, which are important in music.
Reduce Background Noise
Hearing aids are designed to help you hear better in a noisy situation with a program specially designed to reduce background noise. Unfortunately, some older hearing aids can mistake a sustained chord as background noise and block it out.
Older hearing aids often omit a whistle known as feedback. In order to protect the user from this uncomfortable sound, hearing aids were designed to suppress these tones. Unfortunately, they can instead mistakenly suppress the pure tones in music such as an organ or flute melody.
Wide Dynamic Range Compression
This hearing aid feature boosts softer sounds by compressing those in a wider range. This will prevent you from hearing all the notes of a piece of music.
New Aids Are Better Designed
New hearing aids designed by the leading manufactures should not have any of these above issues. Your audiologist can help you figure out what program setting is best and what, if any, additional accessories can be used to further improve your music listening experience.
To learn more about what new hearing aid technology can do or to schedule an appointment with your audiologist, contact University of the Pacific today.