Closest restoration to "normal hearing" - How to judge? Especially related to acoustic music instruments


A recent view of “how to choose ‘the correct’ hearing aid” brought my title topic to mind (again).

Accuracy of hearing with aids in comparison to the real world is of importance to me as a singer and especially as an acoustic guitar player.

Since the hearing loss occurred gradually over many years, I am stuck with relying on memory of what a particular acoustic guitar sounded like (a D-28 I’ve owned for 47 years), getting the aids adjusted to reproduce that remembered sound as best as possible, then using that as a baseline when judging/comparing the sound of other acoustic guitars.

It seems that there should be a method of bypassing the ears, running sound via a microphone and electrodes directly to the brain part which perceives sound, THEN dialing in the hearing aid so that the sound it passes through your ears matches the “real sound” as sent to the brain.

Science fiction? Sigh…


I think you’re talking about cochlear implant. Not science fiction. Already available.

The only thing is that this is a surgical procedure reserved for the profoundly impaired only, because of the associated surgical risks and cost and complications.


Nope. I know about those.

I’m talking about a relatively non invasive way to temporarily bypass the ear to the brain, where a microphone sends the real world sound to brain as is, then you use that input to direct adjustment of a hearing aid until it accurately reproduces that same sound.

You’d still wear hearing aids, but they would now be programmed more accurately than a tech does by writing a program based on a audiogram, which - honestly - has relatively few reference points.


Unfortunately, there is nothing that will give an old musician 20-20,000 Hz hearing again (if you ever even had that). Not trying to be fatalistic, but welcome to old age.

I’m pretty frustrated myself, but am learning that there are limits (at least for now). The focus in the HA industry is on improving speech recognition. 250-8,500 HZ is about the best for which you can hope, with 3,000-5,000 HZ being more realistic if you have profound hearing loss. Even then, NOTHING is going to improve poor communication habits of others.


I have been pondering a similar question.

Having the tech we have in the 21st century i am surprised that nobody (as far as i know) has developed a hearing aid verification program.

Simply (or not) a pre recorded program with voices in high and low frequencies, a voice with background noises, everyday sounds such as birds, traffic etc. it just makes sense to me to fit a set of aids , put the person in the booth and adjust per their perception of the recorded “hearing Aid Fitting Program”

I know this would not be real world but a canned situation but it’s got to be of some benefit, no ??

Yes many do real ear measurements but to my mind a professionally engineered recording would go a long way toward avoiding visit after visit to correct for tinny sounding voices, too loud traffic sounds, not enough amplification in a restaurant setting, echo in certain situations etc.

We can clone animals, live in earth orbit for years on end, dissolve blood clots but we cannot develop a program to make proper fitting a bit less burdensome for all involved?

I’d think it would be a win/win situation. Somebody at the big 5/6 companies must think out of the box.

Love to see something like this come to fruition.

I’d gladly pay an extra fee for in office calibration to minimize return visits

If I were a audio engineer I’d be all over this given proper funding.

Shark Tank. I have heard (no pun intended) that Daymond John wears hearing aids. Come on Daymond, help us out here. Finance some wiz kid and let’s get the party started.


I believe most fitting software has the ability to play certain sounds. I know Phonak has a nice library of sounds. It’s still not like real world and I’m guessing that’s why it isn’t used more


I hear you, Dr Jay. I’m on board.


I understand that there are limits.

I know that with my hearing aids my pitch perception is still in the top 2% of the population, so at least that isn’t a problem. Tuning the instruments, knowing when the band is in tune (or not) with each other, singing on pitch, etc. works great with hearing aids, whereas in my pre-hearing aids (but not pre-need) days, I’d tell the soundman to crank the monitors more… (worked for me, but killed my bandmates) - all that is vastly improved even with rudimentary hearing aids.

But it is the tone perception that I’d love to be able to know was being reproduced somewhat accurately by the amplifier in my ear. I’ve got some lovely sounding acoustic instruments and I’d like technology to help me continue appreciating the tones they are capable of as much as possible.

It seems relatively simple. If at 250Hz I need X decibel boost to hear “normal” and if at 500Hz I need Y db boost, and at 750Hz I need Z… surely a computerized amp can do that.


I thought as well initially that it’s a matter of simple amplification. First of all, let me guess your hearing loss is rather mild in comparison to many. Next, the HAs you use probably do not completely occlude the ear canal. Those highs you hear, as well as the lows you hear are with or without the aids? That’s just pass through.

I did exactly what you suggest with some very expensive headphones, a computer with HD audio, and a 32 band equalizer application along with a tone generator. Got the home office nice and quiet, turned off all the audible notifications on the PC (seriously - this is a dangerous experiment - read on at your own risk).

Next, I turned up the inline volume control on the headphones all the way. I turned the computer’s audio up to full output I lowered the equilizer’s outputs to the minimum setting. (I don’t have the headphones on my head yet). I selected a 1,000 Hz tone.

I increased the gain at 1,000 Hz using the equalizer until I could hear it in the headphones without wearing them, then lowered that value by half.

Headphones on, balance to full right ear, no left ear. Did I mention this test is dangerous if you’re not careful? Adjust equalizer so I can just barely hear 1,000 Hz. repeat for other frequencies, at whatever frequency points you care about. With 32 channels, I could get pretty specific.

Repeat for left ear.

Now you have your baseline. Take the headphones off. Increase each frequency point by 30 dB. Lower the computer volume to a minimum. Play some (insert favorite piece here - hey, how about some Les Paul?).

Put the headphones on, and very slowly increase the computer’s sound output until you hear at a comfortable level.

Next forget I told you this and never do it again. Here’s why. Tap your arm. Feel it? Doesn’t hurt does it? Thump your arm in the same place. Doesn’t really hurt but kind of annoying. Now have a bunch of alcohol so you won’t really feel anything and whack your arm with a hammer. Didn’t hurt because you’re lit and feel no pain. Bruised the heck out of your arm didn’t it? Hit it harder until you feel it.

The hammer scenario is what happens with simple amplification. I have to hit my eardrums (with sound) really hard to make myself hear 4,000 - 6,000 Hz. I have about 90 dB loss at those frequencies. I’m damaging my remaining hearing by increasing the sound pressure at those freqs.


I hear you (pun intended).

For reference, my chart is posted on the forum introductions.

My hearing loss is around 45/50 db up until 2000Hz, then drops off until by 8000 it is between 75/85 db loss.

But the music is all happening (human voice and acoustic guitar) primarily in the 250-750Hz range. THAT is where I’d like to be able to fine tune things with multiple EQ bands instead of one, two or three.


Looking at your loss and going from what I’ve read, I think you’d be pretty happy with something like Etymotic Bean PSAP. Theyr’e not hearing aids, but you can adjust the volume. You won’t be able to adjust the highs, but I think for music bringing the highs up likely just makes things sound “tinny.” If you want to try full blown hearing aids for music, I’d do some searches on the forum. Basically you want to turn off all the sound processing. For your loss, I’d try about 15dB of gain across the board and see what you think. (Gain is rougly set at about 1/3 the loss) I know it’s tempting to think that there’s some objective standard for sound, but there isn’t. It literally is all in your head. If things still don’t sound good enough, you could try trial and error adjusting hearing aids, but I think you’d be happiest with Etymotic Beans. A lot of musicians are happiest listenting to music with good headphones sans hearing aids. Good luck!


MDB - Thanks. I don’t know if you caught that I’ve been wearing hearing aids for 18 years now.

The America Hears CIC aids I wear now have the sound processing off and they work great for music.

BTW, I am talking about performing music, not just listening. I play multiple instruments and sing, so there is a lot going on and the active sound processing is a no-no.

The issue with my AH aids is age. I don’t need more bells and whistles in a computer upgrade, but the physical shells are going to die one of these days. I’ve bought the BTE aids because they were only a $330 copay on Medicare and I wanted backup.

I’ll look at those psap devices. Thanks.


How did you get Medicare to pay anything at all for aids? I have been told more than once that Medicare doesn’t pay for hearing aids. They didn’t even pay for a hearing test.
Hearing aids are not high fidelity devices, even in the best of circumstances. I take mine off to listen to music. The sound I get through the aids is tinny and artificial. Since my retirement, I don’t interact with people nearly as much, so I have been thinking lately of just not wearing them any more. They don’t really help that much in my case anyway.


It seems that some Medicare Advantage plans include hearing aid coverage.


And for those that don’t want to look it up and are ok with a less than complete explanation: There are essentially 3 ways to have Medicare: 1) Plain medicare 2) Plain medicare plus purchasing an extra cost supplement that gives one additional benefits 3) Medicare advantage–you sign your medicare benefit over to an insurance company and they provide benefits beyond what medicare offers (but with restrictions). Depending on the package, sometimes there’s no extra cost. Sometimes it’s a very significant cost.


When I went on Medicare a couple years ago, there was the basic, government Medicare which costs me a couple hundred a month (I’m still working and not drawing SS yet so I pay it). Optional Medicare Part B in my area gave me two choices - through AARP/Unitedhealthcare or Kaiser. Both programs cost about the same $100+ a month, but the former let me keep my current doctor AND offered a $330 copay per ear for hearing aids through hi healthinnovations.

Not having an extra 3 grand to buy another set of my America Hears CIC aids and with them getting older and me wanting a backup set, I’m currently in the midst of fine tuning a set of BTE aids (Power Plus) from hi healthinnovations. The tech I’m dealing with there knows what I’m looking for.

We’ve left memory 1 at the “normal” setting for my loss, with all the active bells and whistles. However, the next 3 memories we’re experimenting with, turning off the active crap and making small EQ changes to see what works best for me in performing (singing and playing guitar). Once we have that best setting arrived at, we’ll have memory 1 & 3 set at “normal” and memory 2 & 4 set on the music program. That way I don’t have to run through all 4 memories to get where I want to go… it’ll be either daytime normal, or nighttime music.


I had not thought of Medicare supplements. I have one that doesn’t really seem to pay for anything. I think I need to go supplement shopping. I agree that for a natural sound, digital processing probably won’t sound as good.


Back to the original subject, I think I’m going to continue my search for the software for my new hi Healthinnovations. They apparently are made by Unitron but I’m not finding their software yet.

If I can adjust them myself, I’ll get to a happy point pretty quickly, although when I can afford them, I’ll get new CIC aids. The BTE are a PITA generally, but they do work.


I have had the exact same questions for the last 15 years. I am a singer/songwriter and I’ve recorded many albums. The first two I recorded without hearing aids. Being significantly deficient in mid to upper frequencies, I compensated by boosting EQ in those frequencies till it satisfied my hearing.
Once I got hearing aids, I revisited those early albums, and found them to be disgustingly tinny.
When an audiologist configures your aids, she/he tunes them close to your performance chart. That involves some increases and decreases in various frequencies, including various levels of compression being applied. One of my programs in my aids is compression-free. That helps to hear some of the otherwise, hidden sounds in acoustic music.
Additionally, I use matching software to make my EQ similar to a performer I’m trying to emulate. I THINK that works pretty well, but I’ll never know for sure, unless I can rely of some brutally honest music critics…


Yep… While driving to a gig this past Saturday with my new BTE aids in place for the first time I listened to some CDs. On one song in particular, with the aids in the “normal” channel, what with constantly adjusting for road noise and whatever music the aids perceived as unwanted noise, the pedal steel guitar virtually disappeared. When I switched to a “music” channel the tech created with all the active crap turned off, the steel guitar was back in all its glory. It was a particularly striking example of why I wish you could still buy a quality set of programmable analog hearing aids.