Musical pitches

What hearing aids are you presently using? Perhaps time to investigate what’s out there for musicians.

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Hi, currently Phonak Marvel.
I will have to investigate, not sure where to start.
I am still reeling from this happening having been ok one day and then waking up the next in disarray.
I have been tentatively listening to various music this week and the absolute worst for my hearing now is solo piano music. I previously listened to Keith Jarrett all the time , now it’s nigh on impossible.

I’m sorry. That sounds like a difficult road of anxiety and grief.

I wouldn’t actually guess that? You could ask your audiologist to run a TENS test to check, although the gross nature of the test wouldn’t necessarily rule out more isolated dead regions. Usually when we are referring to dead regions we are talking about large regions where the inner hair cells are damaged beyond function, and loss is typically more severe than what’s on your audiogram. I think it would be interesting to test your frequency acuity across frequencies, but while this is something done regularly in research settings it is not done clinically. Certainly if you are hearing noise instead of tones, volunteer that information to your clinician. It might be useful information for them to have, although research has not progressed enough that there is a standard approach to that. There is some minor research suggesting that fitting to prescriptive targets when cochlear dead regions are present is not detrimental (to speech perception), although also not necessarily beneficial the way it would be in someone with similar loss and no dead regions. Additionally, we often talk about damage to inner and outter hair cells, but there are a pile of other supporting cells that can be damaged, too. People with much more severe hearing losses than yours regularly still perceive tones as tones, so you perceiving tones as noise is definitely suggestive of more damage.

This should not be the case. You don’t have your bone line marked on your audiogram, but judging just by the air conduction thresholds you don’t have asymmetries that would be expected to overcome inter-aural attenuation.

How long have you had the hearing loss? One of the things that is difficult is that the brain can adapt to impoverised input and re-adjust perception to be more “normal”, but we don’t know to what degree and how long it will take. So there’s a sense that if you amplify everything to target, even if it sounds like crap the brain may re-adjust given some time. The benefit of putting up with the crap sound in the first place is that once the brain adapts you have more overall audibility. BUT, we don’t know how long to try that before giving up and it can be hard to put up with crap sound when you have no idea how long you will have to do so. It’s easier to counsel people with more common sloping losses on this because even though there is no objective answer about “how long” and “to what degree”, clinicians have seen that adaptation happen often enough over time in that population to generalize their experience. Your type of sudden reverse slope is rarer and therefore harder to make a generalization about. I have had two patients with sudden reverse-slope loss kind of like your right ear who were able to accept full gain right away and just powered through with the crap sound and DID adapt over ~6-8 months after which they reported that things sounded pretty normal. Their word recognition also increased. However, I have also had a few others who have not been able to do this–at least one who TRIED without luck, but others who simply couldn’t tolerate the sound quality enough to live with it day-to-day. I have recently had one more who couldn’t tolerate much low frequency gain immediately after the hearing loss occurred, but three years later was able to do so and we have seen improvements in sound perception and general hearing function. I don’t know to what extent there may have been some cochlear recovery after the sudden loss or resolution of loundess tolerance issues (which seem to be common after a sudden or traumatic loss), and to what degree the patient’s evolving understanding of hearing loss made him more willing to try it. There’s some minor research evidence that early amplification after a sudden loss leads to increased word recognition later on.

I would also observe that it’s harder to get musicans and engineers to put up with crappy sound to see if we can get that recovery. Musicians because they are so tuned-in to how things should sound, and engineers because they tend to focus on the function of the device, or even the function of the ear, and overlook the flexibility of the brain.

So, I’m sorry to perhaps complicate things even further for you, but especially if your loss is new it might be worth thinking about things from a perspective of neural plasticity. Consider, for example, all the people on these forums who have gotten cochlear implants; that is a device which provides dramatically impoverished input relative to a normally functioning cochlea, and yet individuals with good outcomes often report that their perception is relatively normal. It is also very common for cochlear implant users to engage in some quite focussed auditory training to help support that return to normal perception. Perhaps a perspective of neural plasticity will also provide you with a bit more hope–if this hearing loss is new, your current experience may not be your future experience, even if change is slower than you might prefer.


I’m only being slightly comedic by suggesting Keith Tippet instead of Keith Jarrett. I enjoy avant garde and musique concrete more than I used to :wink: Of course if it’s the same instruments that’s not going to improve. Some of the electronic compositions can be quite enjoyable even though I’m probably hearing a totally different piece than the composer created.

Evokes memories of King Crimson, who along with Procol Harum, and Genesis (all live) in Chicago circa 1974), may have been the root cause of my hearing loss!

Keith & Julie were amazing together, as well.

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Lucky guy! Well except for the long term outcome. :slight_smile: I learned of Tippet and many other artists through their work with KC, its members and offshoots. I was a few years late to the genre. Missed almost all the fun.

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Perhaps it’s time for a visit to your audi. Or, think of another brand. Widex has been known to be preferred by musicians.

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Hello. Just signed up here.
A Google search brought me here as I have exactly the same problem.
I am a hobby pianist only, not a musician. I had my piano professionally re-tuned earlier this year, but the problem remains: notes above around F5 (~700Hz) sound wildly off-key, sharp by more than a semitone in some cases.
It’s not just my piano. Recorded music I listen to also shows the same effect. It’s driving me nuts!
I have a pair of Widex MRR4D’s with three different programmes set by the audiologist but none of the settings solve the problem.
Yes I’m late coming to this thread and I haven’t read all the posts yet, but I’ll try to do so. In the meantime, any advice? Should I go back to the audiologist?

Same for me f#5 to a#5 all sharp g# & a practically a semitone sharp. I don’t think there is a solution, some music I just can’t listen to if there are sustained melody notes on those notes.

Interesting- I have found Keith’s music to be very irritating. My husband is a fan. It’s likely I may have hearing loss all along and just didn’t realize it until my mid forties.

Assuming frequency shifting is turned off in your hearing aids, I wonder if “recruitment” is responsible? My simplistic understanding is as parts of the brain lose signal from the cochlea they recruit connections to nearby parts of the cochlea. I’ve noticed some pitch ambiguity with soft sounds, perhaps you need aids adjusted for increasing hearing loss? Recruitment is normally discussed as a problem leading to intolerance of loud sounds though (at a certain volume now the brain is getting too many inputs or something?)

I love his piano playing, but hate his vocalizing!

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Thanks for the comments: it’s a relief to learn I’m not unique!

A bit of tech. stuff from the music point of view, if you’ll bear with me.

Those familiar with the acoustic piano’s working will know that it is not tuned to exact equal temperament right across the range: instead it is ‘stretched’ with the highest notes being tuned a bit sharp and the lowest a bit flat. This stretching is characterised in a function known as the Railsback curve, which is unique to each piano, and all tuners work to that principle when tuning the piano. The stretch can amount to as much as 30 cents (1/3 of a semitone) but never a whole semitone.

The reason for this stretch is to compensate for the fact that, because of the strings’ stiffness, a note played on a piano does not exhibit true harmonics. The same is true of any plucked stringed instrument such as a guitar or a violin played pizzicato (but not when bowed). A piano sounds ‘in tune’ to a normal listener when it is tuned with this stretch.

But clearly I am not a ‘normal’ listener. I am hearing high notes sharp when they are actually in tune.

If there exists a hearing aid which can ‘unstretch’ the high notes - lower the pitch - as presented to me - that might be a solution. Indeed my current hearing aids might support that, but I won’t know till I ask the audiologist.


Indeed, reading this thread having Perfect Pitch may be a curse! That said people with PP can listen to piano without going bunker but freak out if another instrument is a cent out of tune. Never understood that.

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There is no such hearing aid. This is a quite common consequence of having a damaged cochlear or cochlears and there is nothing to be done about it sadly. The medical term Is diplacusis.

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There is such thing as frequency shifting happening jn some hearing aids as far as I understand. Whether you have control over it is another, matter.

That is a completely different thing. All that does is shift higher frequencies (which the user can’t hear) into lower frequencies that they can hear. It’s ok with speech but quite unsuitable for music and music programs always have it switched off.

Normally the user can’t turn it on or off, but the audiologist can, using the fitting software.

But it’s a single shift for all frequencies above a certain level, so not intended for and not helpful with the problem where individual musical notes appear flat or sharp.

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Thanks again. From what you say, seems like I have no solution. But I’ll be seeing my audiologist on Tuesday and I’ll be putting these questions to her. Maybe she can refer me to someone or something…

Another option, though it sounds a bit silly, would be to have my piano ‘de-tuned’ so that it ‘sounds right’ to me, if not to anyone else! Then I could get back into practice and play it for my own entertainment… I could even try a d-i-y job: I have a set of tuning tools and I’ve done it before on a different piano (in the days when my hearing was still OK). But I’m loath to tamper with my present piano - I bought it fairly recently and I’d certainly invalidate the warranty!

I’ll have to either give up, or see if there’s some sort of solution out there. Back in the audiologist’s corner…

Doesn’t exist, but it would be cool as hell if it did.

Maybe you could work with your piano tuner to re-tune the piano so as to not violate the warranty. I’d like to think that a curious tuner would be interested in your problem.

On the other hand, maybe if you play some songs that you are very familiar with over and over on the piano that you know is in tune, your brain will unstretch the notes for you. :grin:

Why not make a recording of yourself playing, and take it to your appointment?
Ask the audi to create a program that sounds natural to you, and you don’t have to de-tune your piano.