Dissatisfaction with Phonak Naidas at classical music concerts

I am just about to return my Phonak Naidas Q90 RIC to my VA audiologist. I got them mainly because of excessive perspiration problems and they are more water resistant than most. However, on the music setting at live classical music concerts I hear a shh-ing sound along with the usual sounds of massed strings, distortion with some other instruments, a graininess in general, and so on. The HAs have been adjusted 3 times, the last with the intervention of a Phonak tech by phone. Among other adjustments along the way (including some suggestions made here), sound recover and whistle block were turned off, etc. I spoke with the rep to explain what was wrong and she spoke with and conveyed her suggestions to my audiologist. But the problem continues. I have less than a month to go to return them. The audiologist is less familiar with Oticon and Starkey (the Halos) but suggested I might try one of them. It seems that fewer people here have experience with live music and more with streaming and while I use that too, I really would like to know any experiences with live music. It’s a major part of my life and important to me. I have worn HAs for some 30 years but this problem with live music is a first for me and frustrating. Otherwise the Phonaks feel better and work better with speech, etc. than my previous HAs. But it looks like they will go back. Any reactions, suggestions?

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Widex put out a study recently that showed their Dream hearing aids are preferred by musicians. It was a small study and used recorded music, but you can check it out below. However, Widex doesn’t have a contract with the VA. If you’re interested in trying them out, you’d have to go to a private dispenser.

http://www.hearingreview.com/2014/01/a-hearing-aid-solution-for-music/

Have you had your audiologist add a music program to your hearing aids? You might try that.

The OP said he uses the “music setting.”

Alan, are you describing kind of a white noise/static sound that accompanies the music? Do you also hear it at other times (in the car, bathroom fans, etc)?

I get this sound with my Audeo Q90’s but after hearing it with Oticon and Resound aids too I decided that its just the nature of the aids. I believe it is a side effect of the compression of certain frequencies necessary to fit my hearing loss but it could also be “circuit noise.” It may also be a function of the maximum dynamic range of the digital - analog converter used by the HA’s.

I think it can be improved with further adjustments, but at the expense of fitting to your hearing loss. I had the audiologist reduce compression and gain in the 1k to 4k range and it did help reduce the noise, but at the expense of treble clarity which resulted in a muffled and occluded effect which was unacceptable to me.

As rasmus_braun said above, I have also been told by several audiologists that Widex is the company to turn to for music fidelity, but like you, I am a veteran and cannot get Widex from the VA - i would have to go through my health insurance and pay out of pocket about 1/2 the cost.

Great article:

A Hearing Aid Solution for Music
By Marshall Chasin, AuD

and a great endorsement:

A Second to Marshall’s Comments
By Mead C. Killion, PhD

— Updated —

Great article:

A Hearing Aid Solution for Music
By Marshall Chasin, AuD

and a great endorsement:

A Second to Marshall’s Comments
By Mead C. Killion, PhD

I have had similar problems. With my current HAs I turn the volume as low as it will go; and, if it resolves the issue I increase it until it appears then reset one notch lower.

The suggestions about Widex are great as I loved mine but the VA does not provide them. I suggest you just keep at it with your audiologist and Phonak and hope for the best!!!

— Updated —

I have not truly fully enjoyed music since HA’s went digital. I have a Dream 440, it’s no panacea. Get an analog device if you want full music enjoyment, be my ultimate recommendation. These digital programs just try to be too smart for their own good for environments like concerts.

I also have a Siemens Aquaris 7i, it’s even worse, it changes the program constantly in a dynamic environment.

I would find an AuD or HIS who understands Connexx software and have them programmed correctly. Insist the Siemens rep be onsite. Unless the AuD/HIS moves a lot of Siemens devices the software is too involved for occasional use.

At some point folks need realize particularly with some of the audio-gram numbers I’m seeing that classical music ain’t going to sound like it use to.

at some f

Having worn hearing aids since 1972, I can attest to the fact that no digital hearing device designed yet will make music sound as good as an analog device. They are too apt to take the horn section or any pure high frequency tone and call it feedback, squelching it. The also compress too much, and make faulty decisions on how incoming sound should be. What I do, in the absence of an analog device is just take the durn thing out. Works well, especially at concerts where they crank the volume up.

As for my Aquaris, it’s just a backup and water use aid for me, not that important, just a side-bar.

— Updated —

Having worn hearing aids since 1972, I can attest to the fact that no digital hearing device designed yet will make music sound as good as an analog device. They are too apt to take the horn section or any pure high frequency tone and call it feedback, squelching it. The also compress too much, and make faulty decisions on how incoming sound should be. What I do, in the absence of an analog device is just take the durn thing out. Works well, especially at concerts where they crank the volume up.

As for my Aquaris, it’s just a backup and water use aid for me, not that important, just a side-bar.

I’m newbie (don’t even have HA yet); reading like crazy. Find this thread quite helpful, but discouraging as I love live classical music. This article might be of some value to OP and to others http://thehearingblog.com/archives/1564#.U3lpdvmIBcY

London’s Deafinitely Girly shows how the Phonak SoundRecover hearing aid frequency lowering scheme totally wrecks music… And when convolved with the groundbreaking research at Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory that has connected the strengthening of the auditory cortex in musicians that leads to improved speech discrimination in noise, the results should give clinicians pause before enabling non-linear frequency compression on Phonak, Unitron, and now Siemens hearing aids.

And someone else in recent thread referenced The Compression Handbook which gave me some sense of how HA works and the choice points designers make regarding compression and other audio processing factors. See here https://starkeypro.com/pdfs/Compression_Handbook.pdf

Take a sample of your music with you - Even if you have to bring in player yourself.
There is a large Hearing center in NYC that has a sound room. worth the expense.

http://www.chchearing.org/

I’m sure there are others. YOU MUST be your own advocate.

if you truly want good sound at a concert have them setup a music program and turn off the sound recover feature and leave the whistle block on. in the music program have her add more bass and pull down some of the really high end. generally with very high powered receivers the manufacturer will recommend turning off the sound recover feature. I’m assuming you have hard molds with a small vent? when you say concerts do you mean rock type or symphony orchestra? imo, the siemens have the best sound… softer and smoother compared to the more industrial/clean/empty sound of phonaks. the VA will generally let you try 3 brands with all the accessories before getting jerky.

— Updated —I have returned the Phoneks.

I have returned the Phonaks. The phonak rep did have my audiologist do much, if not all, of what you suggest. Before that, my audiologist did shut off sound recover and turned on whistle block. I will be seeing her in late June. I was spoiled by Phonak TV link and will try to get something like it with my next set, if possible. I also need some kind of water resistancy. Do these two requirements leave out the Siemens? I was not offended by the Phonak’s industrial clean etc. sound. It was the extreme distortion in reproducing some musical instruments (all classical music, by the way) that disturbed me. My audiologist lately has been talking about Starkey. Whatever HAs I get, I will make certain that the equivalent adjustments are made.

In any event, although I was in the service close to 60 years ago, it’s only last year that I got into the VA system and that was a result of the advice and encouragement of you and others on this forum and I am thankful for that. Who knew that there was more than some surgery and tooth repair from a VA hospital soon after I was discharged and the GI bill that helped get me through graduate school? (By the way, the VA had no record of that previous medical care.). And everybody at the VA here has been nice to me, attentive, and above all, professional.

— Updated —

Am new to HA’s and am just finishing up the first half of my trial of the Starkey Halo’s. Like others here, music is a big part of of my life. Sadly my experience so far is that if you are looking for high fidelity, keep looking. Most of the frequency spectrum is pure rubbish. There is another thread where I’ve outlined my time with the HA 's in more detail. Was really hoping to have found a winner seeing as how these are Apple linked HA’s. The features that make for a state of the art HA device are all present. If you are communicating with another person, doesn’t get any better. That said the current state of the art doesn’t in any way include high fidelity.

I thank Captain Tinnitus for the links. Those are the first rays of hope I’ve had. Next month I’m going to a different provider that handles the Widex line and give them a spin.

One note about Apple. If you read the fine print, I believe it so say that they don’t guarantee that any device will actually work with something that has the Apple logo. Just that they’ve set out standards that the vendor of the product that interacts with the Apple product and must abide by those standards. Therein lies the rub. The bar of the standard is set VERY low. Have to remember that this is the first gen of HA’s to work with iPhones and the like. Bleeding edge can be perilous. Given that iOS 7.0 was such a hit (dripping sarcasm), it took until 7.1 to be stable and I think 7.1.1 was needed for the HA’s. Now 7.1.1 is literally causing BSOD’s and crashing both my iPhone and iPad. Great. The one awesome thing about the Halo’s is their ability to stream directly from the iPhone into the HA 's whether it be ITunes, Spotify or Audible.com (I read a lot of books that way) it’s wonderful and I’ll miss that.

On to Widex. If I have to choose between fancy features and high fidelity, no doubt what gets my vote.

Old Geek:
If you haven’t read it yet, look at Eldrid Chapman’s 5/22/14 contribution on this forum titled “Phonak WhistleBlock Technology”. It explains why I was having so many problems listening to live music with the Phonak Naidas and may also refer to the Halos. Chapman states that one of the frequencies on the Phonak that causes WhistleBlock artifacts is 1318.5 Hz. If I understand it correctly, isn’t that an almost exact harmonic overtone of the A440 that most orchestras tune to? Further, Chapman mentions a recording that sounded like it had a sore throat. That is similar to what I heard in the string section at several different concerts in different halls. And it was extremely pronounced.

As I said elsewhere I have returned the Phonaks after a Phonak tech made various suggestions for adjustments to my VA audiologist, none of which worked. Since the VA gets hearing aids from a limited number of manufacturers (not Widex, unfortunately) I probably will go next with the Starkey 3 series (if the audiologist can get them) and see if a Starkey rep. can do better than the Phonak. I hope that Starkey uses a different chip than Phonak and hope that their equivalent of WhistleBlock can be adjusted better. We shall see. I would hope that more users here would respond to your criticisms and mine. I rejected getting a Halo because, from what I can see, the use of the IPhone is mostly cosmetic. Some of those functions are already on hearing aids. It’s true that a few people find it difficult to manipulate the hearing aid controls. But remotes are available. And they are merely added another device, the IPhone which only adds to the problem of breakage, loss, etc., as well as updates, etc., that will eventually require purchasing new phone devices, or possibly even extra charges for new apps, and so on. And above all, I don’t own an IPhone and don’t need one.

Please keep me up to date on your adventures with the Widex. My one criticism so far of them is that, according to their ads, they have no water resistancy.

Alan

AlanM: you bring up some interesting points. 1320 is the 3rd Harmonic and 2nd overtone of A440. I have an oscillator app on my iPad. Played the 1320 and 1318.5 tones together. Interesting audio interference. And not at all a pleasant one. Also saw while surfing around that the A440 tuning is relatively new but has bad karma. Seems there was a ‘Verdi’ A432 tuning. Won’t go into the history except to say the site said A440 was introduced by the US ca 1940. Why or if this is indeed true I’ll leave that for others. Just an interesting aside.

Everything I’ve run across so far says the Widex is only one of two brands that has the extended dynamic range 110db+? and frequency bandwidth of pushing 10kHz. Both would be huge factors to proper music reproduction. My findings suggest that most aids don’t reach much more than 95db and 8kHz. The fundamentals AND harmonics must be reproduced both in frequency and loudness. Much less of either would create the rubbish I’ve found so far. Widex seems to be the only major HA manufacturer to figure this out. And judging from their web information they are capitalizing on those two specs. In addition, only the Widex has the power to handle my hearing needs.

Music reproduction by its very nature is far and away more complex in frequency and dynamics than voice communication would ever be. Not to discount the complexity of vocal music, solo or ensemble however. Those are very hard to reproduce well. Three tests give me the most information. Solo piano, massed strings and a solo singer. Piano creates a profoundly complex sound. Talk about harmonics. The different frequencies of the multiple strings per note make for astounding sound. There’s little worse than mushed strings. The late Eugene Ormandy and the PSO with mushed strings is an affront to civilization (big grin). Finally, a distinct voice. Pavarotti, Joplin or Sinatra. A voice that you know from hours of listening. My quick and dirty way to evaluate sound. I want it all!

Hopefully finances will allow an audition next month. Will report back.