Difference between sensing quality headphones and hearing aids

When most of us try new headphones or ear buds for music, with a few minutes of A/B comparisons we can judge which one sounds best to us. After the purchase we enjoy the sound quality right away - there is no need to take several weeks to acclimate or get used to the sound quality. It is there from the beginning.

Not so with hearing aids, we are told. I am tempted to believe we are told that so that we have time to adapt to crappy, unnatural sounds. But all we really want is natural sound that we hear more clearly. That should NOT require 4 or 6 weeks worth of “adapting” to unnatural, aka, “crappy” (yes, an overly harsh term) audio.

So, tell me. What is the difference between loving new $200 Sony MDR7506 headphones and enjoying them right away, and having to take 4 weeks to get used to the sound of $4,000 hearing aids? Why can’t we experience an “ahaa moment” with HAs like we do with new glasses or great headphones? Why must there be weeks of “adapting?”

Well I disagree with you, you are missing the point of hearing aids, they are designed to help hear and understand speech, not music. They are there to aid in hearing sounds you haven’t heard in a while or never heard. They aren’t for hi fidelity. They are for the hearing impaired and not for the normal hearing person. Yes as someone that has been wearing aids for 16 plus years they take time to get use to, they are so much more than a cross the audio range of providing music or podcasts, they are for some one like me to still be functional in the world around me. I find it insulting when people try to compare hearing aids to every day headphones or earbuds.


It appears you have the luxury of good hearing. For those with good hearing you are right, things sound good from the start.

But…if you have hearing loss you do not hear all the keys of the piano. If a person has had hearing loss for a while or long time, it takes the brain time to relearn these sounds. That is why we are all so different when it comes to hearing loss, really tuff to judge how a person really hears.


Wow. That is one giant misunderstanding. The capability of your ears will hear the amplification of the source that the headphones are connected to. You can tweak the EQ at the source if you like. You might even be able to tweak EQ independently on both sides from the source. Some headphones might have mics to pick up and amplify the ambient sounds. These might be able to adjust the EQ of that. Most are passive listening. Those with mics are almost hearing aids.

That is what hearing aids do. They amplify and adjust the EQ of the sound that their mics pick up and output that sound to your ears. Most can do some processing on that sound as well and output that processed sound.

Those Sony’s are passive listening headphones. You have to be connected to a source. With a cable.

It takes many years for someone to finally give in to admitting that they need hearing assistance. In that time, their brain hasn’t heard some sounds at all. Then suddenly they’re hearing all this racket. The racket was always there. You just didn’t hear it.


Hey, everyone - read this guy’s (ie. @gfmucci) other posts and check his stats. He’s clearly just another disgruntled troll. Don’t let him corrupt perfectly good Forum convos!

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Dear Spud. I beg your pardon. I asked legitimate questions. A disgruntled troll, huh? I could pick a few dismissive names for you, but I won’t stoop. Hey guys, read Spud’s name calling! Is that appropriate here?
I read the guidelines. Did Spud? Who is the one corrupting this forum?

My questions weren’t answered. Only criticised and dismissed. So I may not be as deaf as some, but you haven’t asked my wife. So don’t judge what you have no clue about.

I’ve read or listened to dozens of attempts at explaining what I asked about, but it is mostly vague, subjective generalities. I thought this would be a good place to ask that question. Silly me.

So, what are some good, sound, technical explanations for why the profession insists we give these devices weeks as opposed to being awed within the first few hours or minutes? I would think the more hard of hearing someone might be, the more immediately inspiring the “ahaa moment” would be. Like going from $3 drug store ear buds to $350 Bose.


You are so wrong in so many ways. I so want to revert back to my old sailor language for the crap you are trying to pull in this forum.

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CV: You were so kind and helpful when I complimented the VA. :thinking: And then I ask legitimate questions and you call it “crap.” What’s up with that?

A member here enjoyed his Sound World Solutions PSAP’s. Maybe PSAP’s are all you need. Some simple EQ adjustments. And amplification.
It’s your money. If you don’t have company benefits, health plan, insurance however wherever you can get them paid for…you need to decide if they’re worth it.
Hearing aids are NOT headphones. They are active listening devices that process what their mics are picking up and forward that sound out to your ear.

If you’ve gone many years not hearing some sounds then all of that new sound can be overwhelming.
When I remove the aids I immediately realize it as the world suddenly becomes all muffled and quieter.
Or if I don’t have them in for a period of time then put them in then there’s all this sound bombarding my ears.
The ears are the sensors. Your brain processes what the sensors pick up. Hearing aids help overcome deficiencies in those sensors.


:persevere:I should have just bit my tongue and ignored this guy. But BS that could turn people away from getting effective treatment for their hearing loss infuriates me!!!

I apologize to my legitimate fellow Forum members for letting myself rise to the bait.

I’m down 60db above 1,000HZ. I’m going through the VA to get Phonak Audeo P90. My wife has been after me because I don’t understand half of what she speaks to me.

I understand there are musicians and audio geeks who have significant benefit by good quality hearing aids - I read this on this forum, BTW. I also understand that Phonak is one of the better ones for balanced fidelity that is good for music/streaming/tv/live music.

I’ve also learned that there are some very sensitive, reactionary people on this site. Shocking, I say, just shocking! But amidst the weeds there is excellent experience and advice being shared. Now if Spud and CV would apologize directly to me, that would be appreciated. Geez, I felt like I started a Junior High brawl.

well I call a spade a spade, I have never mixed words. I am also way to old to care about what others think about my honest bluntness.

I didn’t read any of your history pointed out. I was just astonished that you would think to compare passive amplification devices like headphones to active listening and processing devices like hearing aids.
So cost is not your factor. Lucky you. (well that and thanks for your service)
Please do go ahead and set up your audiogram on this site so we can see where you’re at.
Music is a whole ‘nother ball o’ wax in my opinion. Focus on being able to hear the wife. Job #1. Then work on other kinds of listening.
You say the sound is crappy. Exactly what everybody says first time. That’s because you’ve lost a lot of the ability to hear all of those high frequency sounds.

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Sharing your audiogram would help us help you.

This got a good chuckle out of me.

Your question about headphones and hearing aids has been answered a few times. If you do have hearing loss and headphones sound good to you, I suspect you have a flat hearing loss. Usually very easy to fit.

Yes, we have a number of musicians on this forum. Some have better luck than others concerning hearing aids and music. Those that enjoy music with hearing aids usually have aids that are proper fit for them. A great fitter or possibly self fit hearing aids.

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well I am muting this post, there is someone here that doesn’t seem to think before speaking. And it starting at the creation of this post.


Does any of this look familiar?

## [Be Agreeable, Even When You Disagree](FAQ - Hearing Aid Forum - Active Hearing Loss Community)

You may wish to respond to something by disagreeing with it. That’s fine. But remember to criticize ideas, not people . Please avoid:

  • Name-calling
  • Ad hominem attacks
  • Responding to a post’s tone instead of its actual content
  • Knee-jerk contradiction

Instead, provide reasoned counter-arguments that improve the conversation.

Quote from CV: “You are so wrong in so many ways. I so want to revert back to my old sailor language for the crap you are trying to pull in this forum.”

Quote from Spud: “Hey, everyone - read this guy’s (ie. @gfmucci) other posts and check his stats. He’s clearly just another disgruntled troll. Don’t let him corrupt perfectly good Forum convos!”

The “crap [I am] trying to pull” are the same types of questions those new to costly HA think about if not ask every day. So let’s hear your well-reasoned thoughts on the questions I’ve asked instead of the name calling and knee-jerkiness.

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Yes, oh the humanity!

ok, I’ll bite :smiley:

I understand your question BUT I think it comes from lack of understanding about what HAs are trying to achieve.

A decent pair of headphones essentially allow amplification across all frequencies (as far as the design allows) and almost all ‘volume’ - within the specs of the Headphones. Sure, some have a coloured sound with accentuated bass or highs etc. Also, if you are talking about ‘earbuds’ - most of the decent ones are almost completely occlusive - that is how they achieve a decent bass response. There are SOME that have the option of EQ at the headphone and SOME that have sound cancellation of environmental sounds - but essentially you are hearing the input amplified universally - all frequencies, all volumes.

Unfortunately that does NOT work for hearing loss. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that simple amplification - except in the mildest or simplest of cases - does not achieve SPEECH INTELLIGIBILITY for the HOH. This is for several reasons - firstly the loss is - generally - not universal and equal across all frequencies; secondly there is good evidence that the appreciation of speech deteriorates at the cortical level (brain) after a significant period of time without stimulation, so our ability to ‘decode’ sounds into speech/language degrades - and that degradation is permanent to some extent. So HAs have to do so many other things - and this contributes to the ‘crappy sound’ that people experience - at first. They have to amplify selected frequencies - smoothly- to fit a persons hearing loss. The amplification varies from frequency to frequency to increase SPEECH ineligibility. This is much more than '“turning up the treble” - However - for a HOH person with high frequency loss (say) - that will initially be perceived as a very bright or tinny sound as they are not used to hearing those frequencies in that context. Some frequencies can NOT be amplified sufficiently and then they are either frequency compressed or shifted - another unnatural process that affects the appreciation of the quality of sound - but which may increase intelligibility. As the HOH sound detection thresholds are abnormal and depressed (or elevated - you know what I mean) then a linear amplification for all volumes that would make low volume sounds detectable makes higher volume sounds uncomfortable so the HAs are programmed to provide compression - which can be readily identifiable if you have an educated ear and contributes to sound ‘crappyness’ as well. They also need to ‘work’ to improve signal to noise ratios in differing environments as variable as a loud restaurant and a quiet library.

So - the HAs are doing a SHED load of ‘stuff’ - all in the name of improve SPEECH comprehension and without blowing out your eardrums. The sound they produce is going into a damaged processor/decoder that will never fully recover its abilities to decode the sound.

Add to the mix that the receiver is TINY to hopefully allow an open fit/avoid occlusion - where available and that you are wearing it for 16+ hours a day (personally I could NOT wear earbuds or headphones that long YMMV).

The GREAT thing is that we are very adaptable creatures. After some time (yes- weeks is realistic) we begin to recognise the new sounds as normal and - INTELLIGIBLE. Improved speech comprehension is the result.

Now to show the difference with music - look at a typical HA music program - you essentially turn off much the processing as music appreciation is TOTALLY different. Turn off (lower) compression , remove noise management, remove frequency lowering/compression. Of course the other consideration - we can (almost) objectively asses speech comprehension. We use word recognition scores for example. Objectivity assessing MUSIC comprehension is extraordinarily difficult. It is like describing the colour Red :smiley: .

Sorry if what I have posted is “Old news” to you BUT I must infer from your question that you do not realise the complexity of what HAs must do compared to headphones…

My advice is read - extensively - on this forum and around the web. The information is amazing. READ the NAL-NL2 prescription guidelines which explains some of the complexities of treating hearing loss; read how people who get a cochlear implant learn to hear again. We live in amazing times :smiley:


At the risk of not agreeing with everyone else in this thread, I’ll make a rudimentary attempt to answer your question, based on my experience.
I too am an audioholic, who relishes good quality headphones, and speakers.
Even with my hearing loss, I can tell the difference between a pair of Beats, and Sennheisher HD 600’s, without my hearing aids.
But with a properly fitted pair of HA’s with a dedicated Music Program, the difference is extremely satisfying.

This is where it gets to your point about HA’s.
They don’t have to sound “crappy”.
If you are fitted properly with a pair from any of the major makers, you will perceive an instantaneous improvement. The key word is “Properly”.
Sure the 1st week or so may introduce some sounds that you are unaccustomed to, but that’s your brain adapting to what’s been missing all the years your hearing was slowly fading away.
Unlike a pair of good headphones, you are also dealing with the fitting of the aids. Domes of various design, earmolds customized for your ear canals, all come into play.

Try listening to music with a good pair of IEM’s. You have to experiment to find the tips which offer the best reproduction, and comfort, so just as with HA’s there is an adjustment period.

Hope this makes sense to you.


Thanks for “biting.” That is the type of explanation I was hoping for. I can’t believe I am the first to broach the question. I doubt that I am. That answer does not come natually to some/many of us.