New here, question about high frequency gain

Hello everyone,

I have a million questions, but I should keep this first post brief.

About my condition: I experienced sudden, broad-frequency hearing loss in my right ear about a year ago. It was accompanied by tinnitus. Both the hearing loss and the tinnitus appear to be permanent.

Diagnosis at this point is uncertain, but we have ruled out tumors, gross otosclerosis, and several other causes. A passing viral ear infection is one of my doctor’s favored theories. I did feel somewhat disoriented over the two-week span when I was losing my hearing, though I had no other obvious signs of illness.

I was hoping for a clear diagnosis, and then a treatment. So far, nothing. Last week I had my first hearing aid consultation.

I’ve had three audiology tests over the past year. They show not only the hearing loss in my right ear, but also high-frequency hearing loss in the left ear that, in retrospect, I’ve probably been living with for years.

Here’s a consensus of my audiograms, overlaid with the classic “speech banana”:

Red = left ear, green = right ear.

(That sharp notch at 6 KHz in my right ear is close to one of the loudest frequencies in my tinnitus.)

The audiologist tried a par of Widex Mind 440’s on me. I wore an open-hole device on the left ear, and a closed-hole on the right. I definitely noticed some improvement, but the sound was a bit “hollow” (too much mid-range, I think). I could also tell that I wanted more gain in the high frequencies. I wanted additional clarity for the “f”, “s”, and “th” sounds. She surprised me and told me that even the best hearing aids offered little to no gain above 4 KHz!

I know a fair amount about audio equipment, so I pressed for a reason why this would be so. She told me that feedback was the limiting factor at the high frequencies. A little reading on the Net makes me wonder whether her information was fully up-to-date. I found an article from a Mayo Clinic physician, several years old already, which stated that hearing aid technology had improved and could assist people with high-frequency hearing loss, where previously there was nothing.

There are many feedback-suppressing technologies these days – including pitch shifting, an idea I had myself over a decade ago (and failed to patent!). Just a small frequency shift, say 6 Hz, is adequate to kill a feedback loop. Above 2 kHz or so, the slight inharmonicity that might result from the pitch shifting should go un-noticed.

The audiologist told me that the Widex 440 did have a program which shifted the high frequencies downward, but apparently by an entire octave. I didn’t get to try that setting, but her description left me with the impression that it would sound artificial.

I don’t know whether the audiologist was reluctant to give me the extra gain I requested at the high frequencies, for fear of treating me to the squeal of feedback. But if that gain is simply not obtainable, with any device, I don’t think I should waste any money on a hearing aid for my left ear. I’ll just get one, for the right ear.

Please share your wisdom. Many thanks!

Yep, the first step fix that GOOD ear with a small decent aid.

The bad ear is likely to give poor results even if the sound is amplified … something nasty happened and I doubt that the acoustic system on that side is going to work too well.

You could try 'tho … you won’t need too much gain in the 1k-3k region, and a bit of extra input might help with localisation … although you might not hear speech properly on that side.

Another point: don’t worry about dispenser competence, bandwidth, feedback technologies etc - just try out one (or two) fairly decent aids.

Hello, English,

Thanks for the quick reply.

My right ear still works acceptably, when the input is loud enough. I can listen to a stereo-localized radio broadcast (of speech, a more critical test than music) if I twist the balance knob a bit to the right. And when I tried a hearing aid, it did indeed cut through the fog, somewhat. As I said, I felt like I wanted more high frequency signal than the audiologist gave me. In both ears, in fact.

Well, that’s a surprise recommendation.

Also, it begs my question. I know, you say, don’t obsess over specifications. (I’m a research biologist by profession, and music was my undergraduate minor – it’s hard not to!) Still, the ONLY thing I feel that I need in the left ear is gain above 3 KHz. And when the audiologist gave me a hearing aid to try, I felt like I wasn’t getting enough. So I would like to have the audiologist’s statement about high-frequency information confirmed or refuted.

To make it as specific as I can: Is there any hearing aid which can provide 20 - 25 dB of gain in the 6-8 KHz range, without having constant problems with feedback?

Thanks again!

I would definitely try a pair of the Audeo YES range of aids from Phonak as it has non-linear frequency compression and when this is off it can still amplify to about 8KHz + it is suitable to both ears as it has a power receiver option that can be used on the right side. It is also great at dealing with feedback due to multichannel phase cancelling.

What about Phonak Exelia Art ?

Does it help with high frequency loss and bad speech discrimination?

Is there any hearing aid which can provide 20 - 25 dB of gain in the 6-8 KHz range, without having constant problems with feedback?

Some points:

  • technically I have my doubts about any chip+speaker combination achieving that, especially in any sort of open fit.

  • feedback could indeed be an issue.

  • by pumping in huge amounts of power at HF you could encounter DSM (Downward Spread Of Masking) … where the loud HF signal flooding the ear reduces the ear’s capability at lower frequencies.

  • the dispenser’s job is to provide you with better SPEECH comprehension … not to allow you to hear bats picking their noses!

  • at some point you may start to damage your residual hearing with excessive power inputs

Perhaps your best option is to get a pair of self-programmable aids … just to prove to yourself what is & isn’t possible and what is & isn’t important.