Hearing aids for music listening

Hello,
I am 57 and have been living with a mild hearing loss all my life. I have been tested periodically since I was 20. The drop starts around 1500Hz and at 3000-4000 it is already 70dB under the baseline of the test. Then it recovers a bit but the test runs up to 8000Hz only.
I have the usual difficulties hearing conversations in a noisy environment or even discerning 2 persons speaking. Still this is not what brings me here.
I would like to improve the way I listen to music. Music occupies a large part of my time. I also work in audio-video industry.
Music is different than human voice. Dynamic range, frequency range, transients, sustained sound pressure, these are the main differences.
So I was wondering if the technology as of today addressed these specifics.
I hope to get recommendations here because I have already tried my doctor and the audio specialists. They looked at me as a weird patient.

Hi @bernard.danino, welcome to the forum.
If you copy and paste your query into the search bar at the top right of the page you shall be rewarded with more info than you can handle!
There are literally hundreds of music lovers, and pro musicians here to help.

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You’d want to look for hearing aid brands/models that support wide input dynamic range, to the tune of 113 dB SPL or better, if you want to get the best experience with hearing music, especially acoustic instruments with loud transient attacks like piano, guitar, percussions, etc.

Another thing to watch out is that most traditional feedback management strategies include some sort of frequency shifting (not much, but by about 10 Hz). This can cause fluttering to be detected, especially with pure tone sounds. But if you need feedback control, I’m not sure what you can do, except for maybe just turning it off in your Music program and just risk feedback.

Oticon has a new feedback “prevention” technology that doesn’t do frequency shifting like the reactive traditional feedback management does. This may help get rid of the fluttering and still have some kind of feedback control in place. But it really depends on your hearing loss and whether that kind of loss is prone to feedback or not. If your hearing loss is not prone to feedback when fitted with hearing aids, then it becomes a moot point anyway.

You may also want to investigate frequency lowering which is mostly designed to help with speech. But it may also help bring back some of the highs that you’ve lost because it’s going to be hard to bring back those highs in the 2-3KHz and up where your hearing starts to drop off. Some frequency lowering may be more music frequency than others, depending on your brain’s perception. There’s all kinds of strategies there, from frequency compression to transposition to composition to a combination of them.

In another thread, I mentioned that courses related to music and HA’s are available to audit for free at Audiology Online - you don’t have to be a hearing professional to sign up. The specific course that I referred to, supposedly comparing HA brand ability to reproduce music, is very limited in scope and (naturally) touts the ability of Signia HA’s to handle music as compared to other brands as the authors represent that company. But the text summary of the course has some interesting quotes concerning HA’s and music and one graph that I copy at the end that “says it all.”

We fit hearing aids to improve audibility of sounds, such as speech and music. However, hearing aids are often programmed for listening to speech – and we should remind ourselves that speech and music can be quite different. Speech is produced by the human vocal tract and has well-defined acoustic properties that are fairly consistent across languages (Byrne et al., 1994) and that have predictable variations across genders, ages, and vocal effort levels (Byrne et al.,1994; Olsen, 1998). Average speech levels typically vary between 55 and 66 dBA (Olsen, 1998) with a dynamic range of 20 – 30 dB (Holube, Fredelake, Vlaming, & Kollmeier, 2010). Speech tends to have more low-frequency energy and a fundamental frequency as low as 100 Hz and 160 Hz for males and females, respectively (Cornelisse, Gagne, & Seewald, 1991).

Music, in contrast, can originate from a variety of sources, such as voices and instruments. Music has the potential of having a much larger dynamic range, broader frequency spectrum, and higher overall level (Chasin & Hockley, 2014). We can illustrate these differences between speech and music using displays of the energy, across frequencies, in each type of signal across frequency. The speech range is sometimes called a “speech banana”, as shown in Figure 1. This is compared to the range of energy in music, with both speech and music overlaid on the dynamic range of the human auditory system. The acoustic differences between speech and music are large, and may pose challenges for designing hearing aid programs that work as well for music as they do for speech.

and:

Many hearing aid manufacturers have incorporated music programs, designed to improve the sound quality of music, into their products. While the parameters of each music program differ between manufacturers, common features of a music program include slower compression, less noise reduction, reduced directionality, and reduced feedback cancellation, compared to programs intended for use with speech (Moore, 2016). At least one study has shown that different models provide different output levels for music, but also showed that individual preferred listening levels vary considerably across listeners (Croghan, Swanberg, Anderson, & Arehart, 2016; Galster, Rodemerk, & Fitz, 2014).

and finally:

Does genre matter? Our results show that sound quality differences between hearing aids may be more apparent for some genres of music compared to other genres. This finding is consistent with previous results from simulated hearing aids tested by Arehart et al., (2011). Clinically, this may mean that the most suitable hearing aid, and whether it needs or has a music program, may depend on the type of music that the patient would like to enjoy. In this study, the Primax was rated, in all genres, as having the highest sound quality more frequently than any other hearing aid. Some genres seemed to interact more often with hearing aid model and program. For example, there were only a few noticeable differences for classical music, while the jazz sample elicited many noticeable differences. The individual patient’s preferences for music type is an important consideration.

and the graph comparing music and speech listening volumes and frequency ranges:

Figure 1. Frequency-intensity range of speech and music within the audibility of the human auditory system. Adapted from Limb (2011).

image

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So when specs say something about input dynamic range and seemingly always mentioned in db terms and being under this topic, is this chart saying that that is a 70db range? From 30-ish to 100-ish?

The upper and lower ranges co-vary with frequency, according to the chart. I omitted a third paragraph where the authors claim a surprisingly limited dynamic range for some types of music listening (which I’ll quote below) but in the discussion the authors claim on limited evidence that greater maximum output (to avoid clipping, I guess??) is also important for some music listeners. Hopefully, Audiology Online has editorial review and parts of the course that I cite certainly read like a journal paper where the editors in accepting a work for publication made the authors fess up to potential shortcomings of their presentation.

Third paragraph following first two paragraphs quoted above in my previous post:

These characteristics can also depend on the exact instruments and genre, and whether music is listened to live or via a recording. For example, Kirchberger & Russo (2016) found that the dynamic range of recorded classical music was between 20-32 dB while the dynamic range of recorded jazz was 13-23 dB, and that there was more relative low frequency energy in a choir genre versus a pop recording. In fact, previous studies have shown that hearing aid sound quality ratings can be affected by music genre (Arehart, Kates, & Anderson, 2011; Davies-Venn, Souza, & Fabry, 2007). Does this mean that fitting hearing aids for music listening is not a generic problem, but rather one that may need to be tailored to the individual music preferences of the hearing aid wearer?

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I would have to agree that real, natural instruments/voices heard live would have all the fullness and harmonics that electronic would lack. Electronic is subject to all the hardware to pass through before it becomes analog to our ears. Then for us…back to more hardware to output from those tiny little speaker things they call receivers to analog into our ears.
Recordings are entirely dependent on the recording equipment used and the playback equipment used.
Hearing aids obviously can’t output much of any bass either.

I would also like to add that wrt the differences between recorded and live music - there is almost always significant compression/‘normalisation’ applied to recorded music both at the recording end and the playback side which significantly affects the dynamic range ( not to mention the colour changes in the music the electronic processing imparts as alluded to by @z10user2).

I also suspect that for me, being "up close and personal " to the instrument - as a player - is going to require different considerations to listening live in an auditorium…

I am resigned to needing to trial multiple different HAs/approaches to find the best option for me.

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  1. Find a qualified Hearing Aid Professional
  2. Be sure to relate your priorities to #1 above
  3. At the very least, have them program the Music Program for the Aids you choose
  4. Invest in a NoahLink Wireless, and Download the software for your HA’s.
  5. Save a copy of the settings that were programmed.
  6. DIY untill you find an acceptable program for you
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This was very informative. Thank you all.
Unfortunately the feeling I get from this info is that I would rather look for an HA to improve my life in society and better communicate with people :wink:
As for music I surrender. Technology doesn’t seem to have an answer for me.
I listen to music in a completely isolated and dedicated environment, on a very high end system. The noise floor in my music room is 28dB when the door is shut.
I do not feel I am missing something but I admit i push the volume quite high.
But then again, what do I know… maybe I just got used to what I am missing.
I know my sense of pitch is very accurate as I play instruments too.
Can anyone here have a look at my test chart and speculate on what I am actually missing?

You have high frequency hearing loss that will make it difficult to hear any sound above 2K. From a music standpoint the simple description is losing the treble. I have a very similar issue, although my HF curve looks a bit different, but the end result is essentially the same.

I have Starkey HAs and like on other HAs, comes with a “music” preset/memory. If I stream over BT, I find the loss of bass disappointing, even though higher frequencies are being corrected. Now that’s great for speech and daily wear, but for critical listening to music, not so much. I can adjust the bass in the app which allows adjustments on my phone, but streaming through the HAs is at best good for background listening.

You might be able to tweak your system to have s better experience. Listening to music in your audio room is different than streaming BT audio. You’ll still have the bass in your room, and may notice the highs are a bit cleaner. It will depend on getting a good fitting from your Aud for a memory for “open listening”, most likely turning things like noise reduction off, as your room is quiet, and the HA noise reduction algorithms won’t miscatagorize parts of your music as noise and provide unnecessary reduction.

Right now I no longer have my stereo system set up, so I rely on quality headphones, Sennheiser being my preference (lower high end). There’s no doubt it’s a way more enjoyable way of listening than with BT streaming to the HAs, and despite my hearing loss I’m still able to discern the quality of a recording.

So in my case my headphones beat my HAs by a lot. In your case, a HA may still provide a hopefully a bit better experience in an open music setting, although some judicious use of an equalizer may improve that. Do not expect any type of BT streaming to give you an experience compared to quality headphones. However the improvement in your day to day activities will improve with them, although if you can’t get things perfectly tweaked, which is a roll of the dice, but careful adjustment with follow up adjustments by your Aud may get you some improvement in your listening room.

One other thing to consider is that unlike most in the ear HAs, a RIC (the actual speaker is in your ear canal rather than the hearing aid portion behind your ear) HA fitted with an open dome will still allow some ambient sound to enter your ear and provide a somewhat normal hearing experience with a better sense of what’s around you, and in your case sitting in a dedicated quiet room may allow the music to sound more natural.

Please remember I’m pretty new to this as well, and can only go by my personal experience as a music lover with an RIC style HA. Others will weigh in with more knowledge and experience than I can offer.

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I think you’re drawing the wrong conclusion here. You’re missing out on a lot musically speaking. All the high timbres, resonance, nuances, harmonics, etc. You just don’t know what you’re missing because you’ve gotten so used to not hearing it.

Technology DOES have an answer for you, and once you will have gotten used to listening to music through hearing aids, you’ll never want to go back listening to it with your naked ears anymore. Just don’t expect to be able to hear perfectly like before you have your hearing loss, if you even remember what that was like in the first place.

Just try out a few name brands hearing aids with their latest models. Only because I wear Oticon brand, I would recommend the Oticon More 1 for its 113 dB SPL input dynamic range, and for its transposition and composition strategy in its frequency technology, which I think will give you a good chance of hearing the highs better but without sounding out of tune for your musically inclined ears. Its frequency prevention technology also doesn’t employ the frequency shifting that causes the fluttering effect.

But I only recommend the Oticon More because I’m most familiar with the Oticon brands and models. This is by no means me saying that it’s better than other brands and models. I just don’t know enough about the other brands and models because I don’t wear them.

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Hi Bernard,

I listen to alot of music on my stereo system. My audiologist knew this was a high priority from the start when I changed from WIdex to Phonak P90. At first I was going back to hiim every week for tweaks. In the end we were going round in circles and driving each other mad. Before my 90 day trial period expired we tried one last setting which was back to the default fitting for my hearing loss. He turned off the sound recovery feature which can add to distortion (fluttering) when listening to music.

He rang me a fortnight later curious as to why I hadn’t been badgering him. In truth, I’ve come ot accept what I have which is very high quality music reproduction, far better than my Widex Passions of 4 years. Like you I don’t like to wear headphones and prefer my music from speakers. I try to limit volume to less than 80db with an average of about 70db. I have my iPhone next to me to check music levels. It’s all too easy to ramp up the volume when you’re enjoying a piece of music.

Don’t give up. I didn’t and am being rewarded with sound quality I didn’t think I would be able to hear again.

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Hello,
Since I last read your very informative post I progressed a bit.
Today I retrieved my Oticon More 1 from my audiometrist.
At the moment as she explained they are set for around 70% correction and this for the training period. My first impression is that the surrounding world sounds pretty metallic and shrieking at times. But it is my first day and first hearing aids ever.
Maybe you could share more recommendations with me now that we can be more specific, being that we own the same device.
The first thing that comes to mind is having more control over my hearing aids, in my own environment, specifically my listening room. As I deal with highly technical equipment in the field of acoustics and audio reproduction I am inclined to want to customize my hearing aids myself.
What do you think?
I already ordered the Bluetooth connector NoahLink Wireless and installed the Genie 2 software.

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It’s just an opinion, but I’d say you’re an ideal prospect for DIY hearing instrument adjustment.

Good luck with it!

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I would second Jim (@SpudGunner) about trying to do your own programming if you’re inclined to DIY. Go to the DIY section of this forum and read up on if you haven’t already.

Since this is your first time wearing hearing aids, it’ll take a while to get used to them. The perception of sounds being metallic or tinny is normal. I’m not sure what you mean by shrieking. If you mean whistling as in feedback when you cup your hand hear the hearing aid then it’s not normal and needs to be adjusted by your audi.

As for specific suggestions to take to your audi, you can ask her to create a copy of the default program for you and add Speech Rescue (frequency lowering) to this second program. Use the leftmost 2.4 configuration and leave the High Frequency Bands to ON. This way you can toggle between the default program (with no Speech Rescue) and the 2nd program (with Speech Rescue) to compare and see if you find the Speech Rescue helpful to you or not.

Another suggestion is to have your audi add the built-in Music program to your program #3. And perhaps also make program #4 a Music program as well, but add Speech Rescue to #4 so you can compare between 3 and 4.

Also in the Default Program 1 and the copy of it in Program 2 with Speech Rescue enabled, have your audi set the Neural Noise Suppression in both the Easy and Difficult Environment to the max value.

After you have the ConnectClip and have paired it to your More 1, have your audi go to the ConnectClip section and set the Power Bass to High. If you use the iPhone then do the same with the Phone section. Doesn’t look like you have the TV Adapter 3.0, but if you do, you can also do the same to this device as well.

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Are you using domes? If so, there is a huge variety that alter the sound quality significantly. Your audioligist will dispense domes that fit your prescription without explanining that the type and fit of dome will alter the sound. I am used to paying thousands of pounds (GBP) for HiFi equipment that make only the slightest improvement in sound quality. Experimenting with types and sizes of domes is ludicrously inexpensive in comparison. After 4 years of experimenting with domes I have settled on Widex large tulip domes for my Phonak P90 hearing aids.

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Wooow so much valuable info to digest.
Great stuff!
Sorry for my bad choice of words. No shrieking, more like a tinny whistle sometimes, very briefly, when I open a faucet, of shut a metallic door. Even when I whistle a tune myself I noticed that I could pin point some frequencies that “harmonize” with the hearing aids, but in a bad way…
I have got so much to learn.
I have asked my audiologist to share my client file with me in order to load it into the Genie software and learn…
Not sure she will like that though :wink: I am sure she will raise concerns about warranty

You mean the little cap the audiologist added on top of the speaker?
That is very interesting. She actually tried a pair first and then switched to another, pertaining the fact that my ear duct was narrower than she thought.
What exactly should I look for?

I’m not 100% on Oticon but with Phonak, you don’t need your client file, you just load your settings that are on your Aids into your Genie Software.