What does "natural sound" even mean?

It’s a term that seems to be cropping up a lot when describing certain hearing aid brands, but is it just marketing or does it mean something?

I’ve heard it mentioned about Oticon and Widex in particular, but as I’ve been wearing Phonak for the past five years (and Starkey before that) I can’t really compare without trying them on (yes, I intend to).

I spent the first 20 years of my life with analog hearing aids and another 20 with digital of various brands, but it’s hard to remember what they each sounded like! :grin:

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There are some aids that will distort back ground noise or tweak background noise to try to help with speech comprehension. Some aids I’ve tried add additional bass to background noise so I couldn’t tell the difference between a car truck or motorcycle. For those with less serious hearing loss there shouldn’t be a huge difference with how things sound with or without the aids. So natural sounding is things still sound the same. I’m not talking louder. Of course it will be louder. But I should still be able to differentiate between a bird or a car or a truck. It should still sound natural. Of course everyone perceives sound differently. So what I think sounds bad others may say it sounds normal. Which is why trials for hearing aids can be so important. Especially with those that have a more severe loss

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My take is that it’s a pretty useless term. (others will wholeheartedly disagree) It is not defined. For most people it means hearing like they’re used to. So, if you haven’t heard high frequency sounds in quite awhile and all of a sudden you can, many people will say it sounds unnatural. I’d focus on speech understanding and being able to discriminate other important sounds in one’s life. We get used to changes in hearing incredibly quickly, so a new “natural” often develops if one gives it time. Cochlear implant recipients are very familiar with this phenomenon.

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It is what ever sounds normal to the individual person. I believe that after a long enough period of time with hearing aids we develop a new normal sound for ourselves

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I used to hear cymbals. I don’t now…

it really would be nice to hear music as I remember it to be.

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It means environmental sounds and music sound like they’re supposed to (pure clean and beautiful) and not like as if some Frankenstein machine raggedy assed the sound in an attempt to make speech more intelligible.

The latter works for some people but not at all for me. I hate hearing aids that muffle sounds and make me feel like I’m underwater just so I supposedly hear speech better which I don’t. That said, again, it works for plenty of other people which you’ll read when on these forums longer. So it’s a try and see.

If I would get benefit from sound processing I’d use it next to my open sound program mode. But I don’t get benefit from it so only sound quality matters to me, and that for me means Widex so far.

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That is likely my worst effect of lesser hearing capability and the use of aids. Anybody into music from their teen years when they could hear (although even then I preferred higher treble to make out those cymbals better and all) might be missing what they remember should be there. In my aging I would ask the spouse - do you hear a particular sound right here - they would say yes - I would sulk. Time and again to the point that I seem to rarely listen to music anymore as it’s just too disappointing. Listening to music that I haven’t heard before and haven’t “memorized” yet is mostly fine although my music sensing brain may think it seems incomplete somehow.

Sure ok the point of aids is to hear speech better and make out the relevant sounds so as not to be saying please repeat in all its various words or simply to feel like I’m a little more present in conversations. But dang.

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Yeah I agree with that. I mean with the dang part.

I personally could not give up my enjoyment of sounds and music just to understand speech slightly better. But my hearing loss isn’t too bad. I can hear pretty good with hearing aids on. Sometimes I have to ask people to repeat, but not overly so.

Well for me my first and foremost concern was to finally understand speech, I was personally blessed with being able to enjoy music, but then I wasn’t ever someone that listened to very much music. But when I do I love classical, smooth jazz, and the Big Band. To be honest since I got my More1 aids’ firmware updated I have listened to more music than I have in decades. But I have to say I am a novice and don’t know what great or even good sounds are.

My “but dang” was about missing the parts of music and therefore being frustrated that I miss it. But speech is necessary communication. So it must override. Ok, sign language, but that is limited to those that can do that.
I agree with the exasperated sound of the thread subject. Even with “normal” hearing, we all perceive and hear things differently. Maybe minutely but differently. Some can hear subtleties, particularly in music, others not so much. Or make out a particular speaker in a crowd. That can be a challenge for other “normal” hearing people.
So yes…marketing.

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Here’s the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of music:

a pattern of sounds made by musical instruments, voices, or computers, or a combination of these, intended to give pleasure to people listening to it:

So, if your hearing aids allow you to perceive musical sounds in a way that pleases and delights you, I’d say they’re successful. Whether you hear the music in the way the composer intended for it to sound is quite another discussion.

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I have to admit I am enjoying piano, the wood winds, and string instruments mostly. I have been listening to classical, and smooth jazz this morning.

There’s still a difference though, to me at least. I mean I can generally enjoy most music with any hearing aid. For example when I put on my Signia AX and turned on some lofi beats I thought it sounded good. The music was mostly rhythm based though and not very reliant of the quality of sounds.

The track I tried after was knocking on heavens door by guns and roses with a guitar solo and the following drums with vocals. The Widex sounded so good it elicited emotion in me. The Signia didn’t. The big difference was in the guitar solo and to a lesser extent but still significant the drums. The guitar solo had an immersive majestic quality to me with the Widex and the drums sounded clear/accurate.

With the Signia the guitar solo sounded more flat and the drums slightly muddy. I would still enjoy it if I only had the Signia to use but it didn’t evoke the same emotional response in me that the Widex did. No wow effect.

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I’ve always assumed that “natural sounding” meant “unprocessed”. that is, it seems as if the aids were transparent glass and sounds simply came through. In other words, I hear sounds and not the aids. Of course this is an illusion, but: the moment I put on the Signia Ax 7’s in my audi’s office I noticed improved clarity of sound over my old aids. Part of this is just that the AX7’s are more powerful and far newer than my old aids, and so with better processing. But the processing seems invisible, as it were.

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While I also sometimes have that experience (without the sulking), and can use my memory of pieces I know well (could hum in my sleep so to speak), I also can use my memory to enhance and immerse myself in the current experience. The musical input is the starting place for the experience but is always participatory and collaborative. I can choose how to be open and receptive to the musical sounds including embellishing them with imagination in the moment and allowing for a pleasurable and transcendent experience. This generally works well for me except for vocal music when if I am straining to understand the words that mental efforting becomes too dominant in the overall experience.

The richness and beauty of musical expression is too enlivening for me to let not hearing certain frequencies well interfere too much with my listening experience. Memory is almost always constructed (enhanced, distorted, etc.) to serve our self image; for me there is no reason not to do that with current listening experience as long as it does no harm to me or others.

It is largely how I frame things that supports one experience or another. I am new to KS10 and for first time have frequency lowering. Initially the mechanical sound of my keyboard was very frustrating (annoying and distracting), but as soon as I put it in the frame of being my own personal but limited percussion section of a musical ensemble it actually became a friendly and enjoyable sound. And of course habituation also let it fade more into the background. Imagination and the story that I tell myself about my experience are powerful tools.
Edit to correct typos

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What we have here is evidence that everyone with hearing aids hears differently. Which is why when the audiologist or the fitter says here this is the best aid for you, well that’s nonsense. Or when someone comes on the forum and asks what the best aid for me that can’t really be answered either. That’s why a trial period is so essential. Unfortunately a lot of people aren’t given that opportunity. When it comes to hearing aids what’s good for one person is not necessarily good for another.

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I find it fascinating how subjective sound is so the term “natural” or “supposed to” is relative to everyone, and “you don’t know what you don’t know”. :slight_smile:

I personally have had stable hearing all my life (my hearing loss is congenital) so I have no memory of what sounds are “supposed” to sound like, just what each hearing aid I wear allows them to sound like. I’ve never had issues with hearing speech and other sounds, only with those sounds being too far away (literally or figuratively) for me to hear clearly. I’m sure some past hearing aids were better than others, but I have no way of remembering this, I just simply adapted to each one and trusted my audiologist that they were being programmed in the best way possible, with input from me.

Whenever I pop in a new aid or adjust my current ones, I like to describe to my audiologist a pretend “sphere” of sound in which I can pick up everything – mechanical noises, birds chirping, people speaking, etc, up to a certain distance. This might come from my childhood of analog aids, which simply picked up everything and amplified it, so definitely I’m used to more input and letting my brain do the processing, perhaps?

Now that I’m researching brands, I keep hearing about certain manufacturers having a more natural sound and I’m curious as to what this sounds like. I’ll be trying a pair of Oticons soon, have been wearing Phonak for many years, but have also work Siemens, Starkey, Widex and again Phonak in the past. The only way to truly compare what each of these brands sound like is to be lucky enough to find an audio who has a demo aid (RIC) in the building when I go visit, from more than one manufacturer, which is impossible.

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I think it’s a dig at the way Sonova does things.

All of their products seem to use frequency shifting to push the output peak away from the input and reduce the feedback risk; great for higher power needs, not quite so cool if you have a milder loss and can discern between ‘normal’ and ‘amplified’ versions of the sound.

Now, that’s no different than me looking over the top of my reading glasses and refocusing, but it isn’t transparent or ‘natural’ if you prefer.

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I have been wearing Oticon aids for over 11 years and I have really gotten use to the “Oticon Sound”, so I have come to accept the Oticon have having the natural sound. I have friends that wear Phonak aids for a number of years and feel the same about the sound of their aids.
I have tried Phonak aids and while I could hear with them the aids didn’t sound that great to me.
So while I have no real memory of what true nature sound is I have come to find my new natural sound.

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Thanks for all the responses!

I guess we never stop learning, and now as I near middle age, I’m trying to decide what is MY criteria for sound quality. How do we “measure” good sound to compare hearing aids properly? Do we just try them on in the dreaded restaurant situation and see what happens? :smiley:

What worries me is that if I start liking the “natural sound” of an Oticon or a Widex or other brand, I won’t be able to find those aids in a custom ITE style that I’ve gotten so used to. I could compromise with RICs but not sure what I would be gaining in features and sound quality.

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