Do I need hearing aids? (I'm a piano player)

I am classically trained musician with perfect pitch, and the frequency shifting was a non-starter for me. Tonal qualities and the accurate reproduction of sound are important to me as well.

So when I first started looking for hearing aids (about 10 years ago), I had a lot of difficulty finding the manufacturer that did the right thing. Many sounded too unnatural or over-processed for my taste, and other settings like attack and release couldn’t be minimized enough to eliminate perceptible delays.

I ended up choosing GNReSound hearing aids because they have a “music mode” program which does very minimal modification to the quality of sound. I’ve been very happy with them.

I’m not sure what other manufacturers offer with respect to modes like this, but I did want to share my experience.

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Thanks @ht384629 - good to have your perspective.

From my limited research and especially from the information I have read here, the HA manufacturers have improved by leaps and bounds WRT music programs. All the major brands now appear to have them. Articles that have been linked to here mention the benefit of slow/low compression; turning down/off noise and feedback suppression, not frequency shifting etc. I know that some of the Major brand HAs do that automatically with their music programs - so I hope that’s a good starting point for the Audi to programme from.

However, I am somewhat ambivalent about the benefit I might obtain where the piano is concerned.
As mentioned, it is only really the top-most notes that seem lacking and further testing on my part essentially restricts that to the top 4 (A A# B C). I have adapted to what I assume is an abnormal tonal range on the rest of the keyboard and have had no complaints. However <!> I do wonder if I am personally missing out on many of the higher harmonics and if my touch and tone would improve with an expanded/normal auditory range.

Otherwise I have the same problems as so many here - my wife mumbles, the TV has lost volume (and I can’t understand it properly even if loud) and people in general don’t articulate properly :wink:

PS Perfect pitch - both a blessing and a curse I’m told?!

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There’s definitely a tradeoff in turning on noise reduction and/or feedback suppression.

Hearing aids have trouble discerning the difference between pure tones (think perfect sine waves) vs. white noise and feedback because pure tones share many acoustical characteristics with those other things.

So if you have sensitive ears like I do and you use aggressive settings for noise reduction and/or feedback suppression, you will hear a lot of fluttering whenever you encounter pure tones at higher volumes and higher frequencies, especially for electronic music or even when the microwave beeps. This drove me absolutely crazy.

It comes down to personal taste and what you can tolerate. I have both the noise reduction and feedback suppression on, but set to the lowest possible level. The tradeoff is that I have to put up with having a lot of ambient noise being unsuppressed, e.g. the air conditioner or even the whirring of the tiny fan in my computer. But that bothers me a lot less than all of the fluttering.

At the time I bought my first pair of hearing aids, GNResound had the best noise reduction and feedback suppression, imho, and it wasn’t even close. I’m not sure how the other companies compare today. I don’t necessarily take it as a given that they have all caught up by now.

I also use minimal compression in order to maximize dynamic range. But there is definitely a tradeoff there, too, especially for louder sounds which don’t get brought down enough.

I also have trouble with that higher frequency range. For me, boosting those high frequencies helps me hear them better, which isn’t nothing.

But as for harmonics, the tonal qualities of sound, and things like that, I’ll just say this: you have to remember that hearing aids are designed and optimized for speech first and foremost. I would love for it to be better, but that’s not the primary reason for getting hearing aids, at least it wasn’t for me.

Yes, this is very much the case.

When I read music, I actually hear in my brain what the notes are supposed to sound like. So when I was young and learning a new instrument in a different key, the greatest difficulty for me was always the basic reading music and associating those notes with the correct fingerings, even if the fingerings are the same or similar to the fingerings for an instrument that I already knew how to play. I had similar issues with simply down-tuning my guitars.

I had to teach myself to read music in a different way: by training my brain to transpose the notes on the page and hear in my brain what they should sound like, and then associate those sounds with the correct fingerings.

It’s one extra step, but once I trained my brain to do this for one or two instruments, it became easy to do this for other instruments. Now, I can switch instruments, transpose on the fly, switch keys on the fly, etc., with ease.

I also can’t stand it when things are out of tune.

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I play some classic guitar, and also do my own programming. Being able to try different settings, and experience the results immediately is beyond valuable.

When I first purchased my Phonak Bolero v70 aids used, I sometimes made dozens of changes a day just to see what would happen. After awhile I found that I had everything dialed in to my satisfaction, and sometimes would go months without messing with them.

It’s my belief that unless you can diy, the provider making the adjustments is way more important than the brand or model of the hearing aid itself. There will always be some new wiz-bang aid on the market, but unless you can get it adjusted correctly it’s worthless. I only have a few hundred dollars tied up in mine, and am totally satisfied.

I can still remember the first time I went out into the world with my new to me hearing aids, and couldn’t believe all the sounds I had been missing. Also my wife quit mumbling, and I had to turn down the volume of the TV.

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I also play the piano. And with that I guess you like listening to your stereo too. Your story is like mine, and most others. Passing 55 your hearing starts detoriating, especially the high notes. In the beginning you dont notice, but at a point I realized my expensive HiFi didnt give me the pleasure of perfect sound anymore. Clear treble has always been essential with Hifi. The result was I lost some interest.

Too many years passed until I finally got me a pair Signia Silks which hides in the ears without any molding or anything. Piano and HiFi thru speakers or headphones now sounds great again. And my wife is less irritated because she dosen’t have to repeat everything…almost.

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Audiology Online provides continuing professional education for hearing care providers (CEU’s required to maintain certification, information to understand new models of HA’s and their fitting, etc. If you search their offerings on “music” (without the quotes), there are quite a few hits. The one that seemed most relevant to the discussion in this thread is the following:

Comparison of Music Sound Quality Between Hearing Aids and Music Programs | 29850 | Hearing Aids - Adults (audiologyonline.com)

The course description reads in part:

This study describes music sound quality ratings between the universal and music programs of five premier market hearing aids, and which hearing aid achieves the best overall sound quality ratings.

I don’t know that there are any restrictions on someone associated with an OEM touting the usual “whitepaper” assertions without peer-reviewed and accepted evidence, so I would take claims in any course with a grain of salt (or two). But Audiology Online might be a good place to go to get more professional knowledge (and opinions) on hearing aids and how they deal with different sounds, music vs. speech, etc. You can sign up for a free account and audit courses for free. You only pay for a course if you want to claim CEU credit.

There are also Audiology Online courses on how to protect the hearing of musicians (and music listeners) while still allowing music appreciation. And one course that I saw on “Why We Like Our Music Loud!”

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I’m guessing you are missing out on many of the harmonics of a lot of the keyboard well below the top 4 or 5 keys. You sound like you are merely referring to the fundamentals around the 1,000 to 2,000 Hz range that seem to be acceptable. Harmonics that we should be hearing extend well beyond 6K to 8K Hz range.

Thanks for that -

I agree completely, as I said:

Realistically, with the extent of my high frequency loss I doubt that I can get anything near a ‘normal’ appreciation of those frequencies - whether direct or the secondary (etc) harmonics - for music appreciation without blowing out my hair cells. For speech of course, there is frequency lowering/compression but for music - that way madness lies. At this stage (unassisted) I have adapted and music sound ‘normal’ to me without those harmonics. There is some work on frequency lowering of high frequency musical sounds by a musical third or sixth (or multiples thereof) so the new sounds are not discordant, but while that avoids a musically unpleasant sound, it does not make it any more accurate than the unassisted sound.

I’ll report back as I get adapted (or otherwise!) to my HAs.

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So … dunno if I should start a new topic but figured I’d update here…

Got fitted for my KS10 s at a Costco today. Extremely thorough - initially tried 2 fully open domes - the whole feedback then rem testing. My right ear not really suitable (tried allowing extra gain on the feedback testing but…) so changed that to a vented closed dome in the right and full open in the left . Both with M receivers. Then redid the feedback and rem testing again. For the record - no earlocks etc and no significant movement or displacement with eating yawning etc… to be honest I can’t really feel them in place. if I wiggle my ears I can hear them a bit though :slight_smile:

The audiologist couldn’t have been more helpful and enthusiastic! Very thorough explanation of everything including care and feeding of the aids :slight_smile: She was was quite happy to work on my requirements for the music program (particularly in minimising compression) and also set up a couple of custom Tcoil options I thought I may need. We started at 100% as she figures I would adapt quickly.

WOW - what a difference these HAs make! It appears I have been listening to people through a thick woollen blanket for the last few years :smiley:
Of course I have noted that there is a crisp/sharp brightness to a lot of sounds which I expect to habituate to - thanks In Part to the good folks here who have been a wealth of knowledge.

As soon as I got home I started on the piano. Firstly, the top notes now actually exist ! I am also getting what I think are the harmonics of the lower notes as well. To me the sound seems quite natural so I am happy so far. Time will tell.

I had asked for a tcoil program so I could use headphones with my digital practice piano - that turned out to be unnecessary! My current over ear phones work just fine with the custom music programme with no feedback despite the fact feedback control is completely off! Maybe I’m just lucky but not looking a gift :horse: horse in the mouth.

I’ve had no issue with the app - I have only linked the HAs with the app - not for streaming with the phone as I am ok using the phone normally. I have streamed with my iPad which is a breeze and better sound than I expected. I was concerned that given the different domes I might have a distorted stereo image but is seems fine and well balanced.

Lastly - on an afternoon walk on a cold and very windy day with my bride I did not encounter any significant wind noise at all so am very happy about that.

Keep in mind these are my first HAs so I can’t compare them to others but so far I am quite content. Testing them on the TV (direct - no streamer) tonight.

Fingers crossed. Making a list of any concerns and returning for follow up in a couple of weeks…

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What a great discussion. Almost all of us have had similar experiences in dealing with our hearing loss. I have bought hearing aids at Costco in the past, and they are fine. One problem with Costco is they generally sell the last year’s model.

If you can afford it, there are some great private practitioners out there. After trying a number of people, I have an audiologist/hearing aid dispenser who is endlessly patient with me and very talented at tweaking my aids to get the best possible sound. Whenever I get too enthusiastic about a manufacturer offering an instrument and a revolutionary breakthrough, she calms me down. She also dispenses a lot of HAs and tells me the experiences (anonymous of course) of her other clients.

There is little question that HAs are basically designed to understand speech. I tried a few music programs, but I haven’t yet found a satisfactory one.

I never could get used to domes. My audiologist has designed wide open silicone molds that are comfortable, preserve and base and are non-occlusive.

–Steve

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Not sure where you got this information but it’s just not true.
Please do a little research before saying things like this.
Thanks

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Even if it was true the Costco aids are last years models, it wouldn’t matter at all. If last year models worked great, are you implying that a year later they are no good? Manufacturers of products are always tweaking products a tiny bit so they can say what you had last year just won’t cut it today. That’s what drives their profit margin.

My used pair of Phonak V70s are a few generations old now, but they are working as well today as when they were the latest must have current models.

The OP got lucky, not because he purchased the latest wiz-bang aids, but because whoever programed his aids knew what they were doing, and took the time to get it right. He should keep that person’s name on file, and insist she is the one to help him the next time he visits Costco.

I would also add that if you have a combination that works for you, stick with it as long as you can, and try not to reach out for the next shiny object.

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I’ve played clarinet, and when I went to see a “pro” to have my clarinet adjusted, I wondered why he could hear nuances that I could not, and my hearing is down only 60db where yours is down 90. So yes, absolutely your sense of the sounds from your piano should be a lot keener with a well adjusted HA.

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Thanks for all your comments

I understand what you say @StevenS but not why :smiley:

As @Raudrive said - they have the current and latest now-a-days. I did try to investigate the mythology surrounding Costco HAs in another thread but it kinda petered out. Seems there is a cultural bias against Costco for some reason I certainly can’t fathom.

Actually it wasn’t all luck :smiley: It was in large part to self education thanks to the good folks on this site in particular. I went in with at least basic knowledge and some enthusiasm which was matched by the great enthusiasm and ability of the Audi as well! We seemed to really hit it off and I wonder if it is an unusual experience for her to have a client who has some idea of the technical issues involved and who knows what they (realistically) might expect from the start? Either way, under the current model at my local Costco I will be seeing her for all my visits as a matter of consistency.

Lastly - and by no means least - I listened to a very good recording of Vivaldi’s 4 seasons today - for the first time in years it brought tears to my eyes :cry: - So much richness of sound that I hadn’t realised I had been missing. :grinning:

Along with playing my pianos, I have another 500 recordings to listen to now :smiley: .

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now you are way overstating the value of hearing aids.

for listening to recorded music a decent sound system with equalization and good headphones is still far superior to any hearing aid.

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This statement may be true for you but not everyone. We all have different hearing losses.

Your relatively flat hearing loss is an example of how good headphones would really sound great. For others that don’t have the flat hearing loss this is not true.

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“With equallization”

If you really care about accuracy in music, hearing aids are still not there. when they are I will be first on line to get them.

This is my point about relativity flat hearing losses like yours will enjoy headphones with equalizers. For those with not so flat hearing losses equalizers will not be enough dB in certain frequencies to get the benefit you would for example.

A quick look at equalizers shows they have a maximum of about +/-15 dB control over each frequency band. Most are in the +/-6 dB area that I read about.
Thinking about the limits of the equalizer and looking at people’s audiogram it seems simple to say equalizers would come up short with many people.

If I am way out in left field about this, please correct me.

This is probably why so many of us don’t enjoy music as we did with better hearing.

some may benefit from a headphone amp also depending on the headphones. I prefer Sennheiser but there are others.

Exactly right. For those who have 60 or 90db hearing loss above 2 or 3k will not benefit much by audio system eq that has a range of +/-10db.

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