Hearing While Playing and Listening to Music

Hi Folks,

“A couple of recent posts encouraged me to revisit an old post of mine. Here it is:
Hi folks,
I’ve been a professional musician for about 40 years fronting bands as a singer and playing guitar. I’ve been wearing hearing aids for the last 5 years. Currently I have Phonak Audeo V90s and use large power domes with them. When I first started using aids I was able to take them out while playing but as my hearing has gotten worse I’ve needed to have them in.
I have a host of issues I’m dealing with. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t trust myself hearing pitch correctly. Quite often with my hearing aids in I’ve not been able to discern pitch and either have to keep playing through the changes until I feel comfortable or wing it (with not so good outcomes). Another issue is hearing myself too much and not being able to hear the music being played or other singers for blending harmonies.
I’ve started to use in ears for solo gigs with good success but don’t always have the ability to use them in all situations.
So long story not so short, I’ve contemplated giving up playing live but want to try to address all avenues of help. So, any advice/strategies any of you would like to share would be greatly appreciated.”
Since writing this a year and a half ago, my hearing loss has not changed much. It remains relatively flat hearing loss in the moderate to severe range.
What has changed since this post is that listening to music has gotten less enjoyable. For example when listening to a singer with just an acoustic guitar it often sounds as if the guitar and voice are in different keys.

Thanks in advance for any ideas you may have to help.
Phil

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Hey @phild,

Whay don’t you turn your V90’s into a set of in-ear monitors? I don’t know how effective the power domes are at isolating external sound but I s’pose you could always ask your audi for a more occluding option if need be. Grab a monitor out feed from your board, plug it into a TV adapter, and stream it directly to your hearing aids. You can adjust the balance of streamed and environmental signals until you have something workable. Make sure sound recover is off so that your brain doesn’t get confused when identifying pitches.

I must admit, music has become much more enjoyable now that I’m no longer using an open fit. Bass is back and there’s no longer that weird phase-y interference at the frequencies where my hearing aids and natural hearing overlapped.

Good luck!

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Thanks Alvin. I’ve tried that and like the sound quality of the IEMs better. I’ll check the sound recover settings though. That may be adding to the issue I’m having.

Thanks again,
p

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Hi Phil. What you are describing happened to me a few years ago. I was playing bass in an amplified acoustic duo. My partner complained that I was singing out of key. He recorded a show and sure enough I was out of key. This is a long story so PM me so I can avoid a very long post. I have much useful info for you.
Short version: Phonaks are terrible for music performance. Get Widex. I tried the TV streamer as IEM’s. Unusable IMO. Use an audi who knows how to program HAs for musicians. Call around to find such an audi.

When your audi programs the HAs have him/her set up a dedicated music program and minimize the feedback blocking function. You probably need a little feedback blocking so you don’t get feedback. But the feedback blocking will cause a “trill” kind of effect when you sing a sustained high note. Try singing that sustained high note now and see if you notice the trilling. You should probably turn off or minimize compression and all speech comprehension enhancement features too.

Your audi may suggest that you go to an ear nose and throat MD to rule out an acoustic neuroma. Get that MRI. I thought there’s no way I had an acoustic neuroma but it turned out I did. Your experience sounds scarily similar to mine.

Lastly google Marshall Chasin. He’s an audi in Toronto who specializes in treating musicians. He has some very informative articles online.
Good luck. You’ve got a bit of a long road ahead of you. But please do PM me.

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Agree with Ziplock! Get the new Widex Moments and have audi set up dedicated program for you. I play guitar but not in any live situations but for pleasure. I’ve set up my own program for playing and listening at the same time. They are very adjustable even without special audi program.

@phild, I’m guessing that’s the processing delay/lag time. Or in other words, how far behind the beat you are. :slight_smile:

Cool, ziplock. It’s been a long time since I read anything by Dr. Chasin. His thesis when I first read his stuff was that analogue devices were much better for music - more headroom and they accommodated linear amplification better than their digital counterparts.

Speaking of linear amplification, I’ve had good luck putting a GE-7 in my IEM chain. It could be hissier than a box of snakes, but it did let me balance the mids a bit better.

Hi, Phil. It sounds like you’re already several steps through this long slog of reaching an acceptable solution. You did mention that you were re-posting an old post from a while ago. Here’s more detailed info:

In 2013 I bought my first pair of HA’s. They were Phonak Audeo Q90’s. I think your V90’s are just one generation newer than my Q90’s. The biggest problem with the Q90’s is a lack of input headroom that causes the Phonaks to clip at loud volumes before the HA processing even begins. I don’t know if Phonak has increased the input headroom on the V90’s or in subsequent generations, but if not, you are experiencing the same issues I was. This is something that cannot be fixed with an audi’s software.

Widex (and some other brands of HAs) have much greater input headroom and they can withstand much more sound pressure levels before they clip. In 2016 I tried the latest model of Widex and found them far superior to the Phonaks for live performing. But I ended up buying Oticon Opn 1 because they had better iPhone connectivity. The Oticons have good input headroom too. I will strongly consider Widex for my next pair of HAs.

I have never really been able to find an ideal solution to the stage monitoring problem. My best solution was using an IEM in one ear. I tried leaving the non-IEM ear open and unprotected; and I tried using an earplug in the non-IEM ear. Both options caused problems. You have probably experienced the same problems. Mainly the problems were about maintaining the correct vocal volume to blend with the other singers. It’s probably not that big of a problem if you have someone in the audience mixing the mains and adjusting the volumes of the various singers in real time, but most local bands mix the mains from the stage. Also my IEM solutions impeded my onstage verbal communications with band members.

As all this was developing I also noticed that I was having a difficult time hearing the key the band (or my duo) was playing in. It would sometimes sound like an atonal roar coming from my wedge monitor, and especially from my duo partner’s wedge monitor. I could hear his monitor almost as well as my own. Sometimes I would be overwhelmed by that atonal roar and I would lean over to get my right ear closer to my wedge monitor. Then I heard the auditory equivalent of a camera lens coming into focus. It was like "THAT’S the key we’re in?! OMG!). I later realized that my partner’s wedge monitor had been blaring into my bad ear (see below).

One day I was at home and I tried singing a sustained note without my HAs in, while alternately plugging one ear and then the other with my fingers. I noticed, to my alarm, that the note sounded almost a half-step lower in my left ear than it did in my right ear. I also began to notice that the little jingle my HAs played upon start-up sounded about a half-step flat in my left ear. This is called diplacusis. It’s pretty rare.

Not long after that I went to a new audi to look into getting new HAs. He said my word recognition score in my left ear was much worse than in my right ear. In “an overabundance of caution” he insisted that I see an ENT and get referred for an MRI to rule out an acoustic neuroma. The MRI showed an acoustic neuroma at the high range of what’s considered a small size. I had radiotactic (Gamma Knife) treatment and my neurologist said the results were better than could have reasonably been expected. I still have some aidable hearing in my left ear. I’m very lucky. Phil, your difficulty in hearing the key sounds all too familiar. Please consider getting an MRI, especially if my story sounds similar to your experience.

I have been performing much less regularly in the last couple of years, and I have noticed that when I don’t perform for a few days that the diplacusis goes away. But right after a performance and for a couple of days afterward it comes back. I have decided that the diplacusis after performing is nature’s way of telling me to stop playing in rock bands. I could probably continue to perform in bands but I would need lots of accommodations. I would come off as a cross between a demanding diva and a disabled person insisting that I be accommodated. So I have decided to switch from bass to acoustic guitar and play only solo gigs where I have total control of the stage setup.

I hope some of this helps. I apologize for the long post.

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@phild I also had to retire from playing pipes, socially and competitively because of my being profoundly deaf. I couldn’t blow to pitch either, which in the competitive pipe band world is just a big fat NO… Even with reasonable residual at the time I couldn’t the hit pitch required on the top hand (high notes). Even with my bimodal hearing system now I still can’t blow to pitch.

After playing for 45 years, it was the saddest day of my life to have to pack my pipes away and put them in the case in the wardrobe. Where they still remain today…
I can feel your pain just reading your story. I sincerely hope you are able to work out some system that really works for you… Good Luck…

Thank you so much. I feel for your loss.

Thanks so much for sharing your journey through the muck with me. I too am performing much less these days, even as a solo artist. I have completely stopped “sitting in” as a guest singer unless I have the time to set up my IEMs so I can make sure I hear well enough.

Most of the time I’m fine with this with the attitude of I had a good run. Sometimes not.

My main complaint these days is listening to music. I don’t think there’s an issue with input headroom. The main issue seems to be how things sound so out of tune to me. Drives me crazy. I’ll definitely run the acoustic neuroma past my audi when I see her in a couple of weeks. Because it’s not happening in one ear more than the other I’m not sure that’s the cause but It’s always worth the discussion.

Again, thank you for your input and for taking the time.
Phil

Hi Phil,

I’m a newbie here, but a BSEE & ex-recording studio engineer. I think Alvin has it right. The Sound Recovery function’s purpose is to change pitch! i.e., it lowers the pitch of higher frequency sounds so that they can be heard by most users. For a musician, this is a definite problem. Also, it only functions on higher notes, so bass content is un-modified. So it’s very likely you’ll hear pitch differences. Make sure this feature is disabled.

Good luck, BrianM (I’m still struggling to learn my 5 string banjo)

Sound Recover and Sound Recover 2 are proprietary technology of Phonak. It is a frequency (pitch) lowering technology. Other manufacturers use this technology but call it different names.

If a person can not hear upper frequencies this technology is fantastic to hear those sounds again. It takes time for this persons brain to relearn all these new sounds and put them where they belong. For those just starting to use this technology it can sound very weird or off but in time it is as though nothing is different. To say this technology is bad or just turn it off is incorrect. It really depends on that persons hearing loss. Some of us really appreciate it.

Thank you both for the information. This could be really helpful. Being that my hearing loss is pretty flat, if the Sound Recover is only modifying the upper frequencies I would guess that it might be a contributing factor to the issues I described.

Allow me to clarify my comment. Sound Recover is definitely useful for those who cannot hear the higher frequency sounds (most of us). But, as stated, it definitely changes pitch, which is terrible for a musician who is performing based upon true pitch. This thread was started to help a musician’s performing problem, NOT as a general user’s application.

Brian

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For those interested into more of a deep dive related to music induced hearing issues I’d recommend this seminar at Audiology Online. Yeah, it’s three hours, but the presenter is informative and seems quite credible.

https://www.audiologyonline.com/audiology-ceus/course/managing-musician-with-hearing-loss-32378

Near the end of the talk Dr. Fligor speaks specifically about common settings that help with music in today’s digital hearing aids. The advice may not be what you’re expecting!

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With a flat hearing loss the frequency lowering technology is not what you want to use. It would not help you at all. With a flat loss linear tuning might be right for you in a special manual program.
Do you or have you thought about self programming?
Good luck

Thanks Alvin. I will definitely check it out.

Exactly what I was thinking. I’m wondering if I should turn it off in all my other programs. Yes, I’ve been self programming for about a year now. I mostly do adjustments with gain in fine tuning but have also played around with program options.
Thanks again for your insight around this. Any other suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Thanks for the reply.
I can not see frequency lowering being an asset with a flat hearing loss in any programs.
Too much wind block, noise block, echo block can cut gains when you really want them, as in your music and speech.
Audiogram Direct has been very good for me and others on the forum.
Dirty wax guards can really throw things off too.
Good luck with self programming, it has been great for many of us.