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Exploring hearing loss and hearing aids for musicians

Kimberley Bradshaw - Head of Marketing
Written By:
Kimberley Bradshaw

Head of Customer Content Experience

Paul Harrison Hearing Aid UK Founder & Audiologist
Medically Reviewed By:
Paul Harrison

Audiology Expert & Founder

Updated: 2nd January 2024
Hearing Aids for Musicians

Hearing Aids for Musicians

Exploring the technology that enables you to enjoy music again

 

Some hearing aids are designed with musicians in mind

Some hearing aids include specific features designed to help musicians with hearing loss improve their ability to hear and perform music. These hearing aids are often customized to meet the unique needs of musicians and may have features that are not found in standard hearing aids.

 

The challenges of hearing aids and music

Being able to understand, enjoy, and relate to music can sometimes be difficult for those with hearing loss.  In the same breath, music perception has historically been one of the hardest challenges for hearing aids to try and overcome.  There are so many factors, dynamics, and complexities within music when compared to sound, which makes it difficult to personalise the experience for the wearer.

But what is the value of personalisation when it comes to experiencing music for those with hearing loss?  How is music processed within hearing aid technology?  In this article, we look at such questions and explore the technology that has the potential to bring music back to life for those who wear hearing aids.

 

Why do those with hearing loss and hearing aids find music difficult to process?

The focus of hearing aids has, understandably, been to amplify speech and sound. Therefore, when trying to tackle the sound quality of music, hearing aids apply speech-processing strategies to music.  But sound and music are not the same.  Music has a larger frequency and dynamic range than speech.  There is no "one size fits all" approach to either and this method means that a few of the nuances of music are lost.

There are two main problems that those with hearing loss experience when listening to music while wearing hearing aids.  The first one is the natural problems as a result of hearing loss and the second is the challenges due to the limitations of hearing aid technology.

Let me explain.  Audibility problems are a result of hearing loss, such as pitch perception and the challenges of hearing and recognising instruments and hearing and understanding lyrics in music.  This, in turn, has a negative impact on enjoying both music and lyrics - therefore putting into context the meanings of songs are often difficult.

 

Hearing aids can distort the music experience for musicians

Hearing aid technology can cause other issues like feedback and distortion when the wearer is listening to music wearing hearing aids.    Even today's advancements in signal-processing strategies used for speech can have a negative impact on music appreciation.  A good example of this would be the generic feedback manager modern hearing aids have. 

This feature does a really good job of reducing feedback in conversation but can often suppress music as it can misidentify it as feedback.  Imagine how hard this must be for musicians wearing hearing aids, as they rely heavily on recognising music nuances, cues, and instruments. 

Such music perception problems get even harder the more severe the hearing loss is, as tones, harmonies, and melodies are tricky to distinguish.

 

Examples of common features within hearing aids that can support musicians include:

  • Multiple microphones: These help to improve the clarity and directionality of sound and can make it easier for the wearer to hear and understand speech and music in noisy environments.
  • Noise reduction technology: This helps to reduce background noise, making it easier for the wearer to focus on the sounds they want to hear.
  • Telecoils: These allow the hearing aid to connect wirelessly to devices such as instruments, amplifiers, and sound systems, making it easier for the wearer to hear in these situations.
  • Multiple program settings: These allow the wearer to customize the hearing aid for different environments, such as quiet settings, noisy settings, and settings with music.
  • Customised frequency response: Some hearing aids for musicians are customized to boost specific frequencies that are important for hearing and performing music, such as the frequencies of musical instruments and vocals.

 

So, how is the audiology industry tackling this problem today?  Are there any best hearing aids for musicians on the market?  

 

 best hearing aids for musicians 2022

Hearing Aids for Musicians and Singers

Oticon MyMusic hearing aid program

 

Exploring the technology that enables you to enjoy music again

In an ideal world, hearing aid technology would cater to those who wear hearing aids to enjoy music by amplifying it in such a way that it brings out all the details.  Even if the hearing loss is mild or severe, personalisation features will enable music to be experienced how it was created to be. 

Allowing unique characteristics and nuances within music to be enhanced, recognised, and appreciated - and this is something Oticon has stated is possible with their MyMusic program.  But how does it work?  

 

Oticon's MyMusic program could open doors to music appreciation

The MyMusic program, first seen in the More hearing aid range, uses a whole new strategy for amplification.  They have built this upon research to improve the music experience for hearing aid wearers no matter what level of hearing loss they have.  This is done by:

  • Signal processing is used in both 4 and 24 channels at the same time to help maintain details whichever signal type it is i.e music.
  • Using additional amplification in the highest and lowest frequencies allows better balance across all of them.  Giving the wearer the ability to distinguish between soft and loud components in music.
  • Ensuring the natural dynamics of music are preserved and maintained in both live and streamed music.

 

Hearing loss for musicians

Hearing loss must be treated to prevent further damage for musicians.  Singer's or Musicians' ears are such a focus in their career, as untreated hearing loss can affect workability.  Musicians rely on hearing to fine-tune a full spectrum of sound simultaneously.  This is so important because music compositions can include a variety of instruments and vocals running at the same time. 

So, whether you are singing or playing an instrument - healthy hearing is essential.  Unfortunately, in reality, musicians are at high risk of developing hearing loss and/or tinnitus.  This is simply due to being exposed to loud noise for long periods of time.  Noise-induced hearing loss can often start as mild, but then gradually worsen to a more severe level over time.

 

Hearing loss for musicians

Hearing Aid Technology for Musicians

Hearing solutions that can help musicians hear the way they need to

 

Hearing aids and technology designed for musicians

An audiologist will discuss the best hearing solution for your hearing loss needs, as there are hearing aids out there that include features and technology that will assist musicians to simply hear better and make life that little bit easier.

This could be speech enhancement technology that assists in a better understanding of lyrics or hearing aid accessories that can send music straight to both hearing aids.  This means that the music or sound you need to hear clearly is delivered a lot safer. 

Other technologies can separate and distinguish music from vocals or sound from speech.  Because they are processed in different ways, it means that you can listen more clearly.

 

In summary

Is this the best hearing aid for musicians?  Like with all new technology - time will tell.  This program is still in its infancy, with more focused research needed.  However, the MyMusic program was named a CES 2022 Innovation Awards Honouree in the software and apps category, so they must be doing something right.

I recently interviewed Professor Alinka Greasley about her new research on improving the music experience for hearing aid wearers and asked her thoughts on Oticon's MyMusic program, 

It is important to note that hearing aids with such features we've discussed in this article, may not be suitable for everyone, and it is important to consult with a hearing healthcare professional to determine the best solution for your individual needs. They can help you determine the level of amplification you need based on your specific hearing loss and musical needs.

 


 

"Music programs have been developed, but they are at an early stage of development because there hasn’t been enough research.  It isn’t a one size fits all situation, so it all comes back to personalisation and that’s the difficulty.  There is mixed evidence as to the benefits of music programs.

There’s room for improvement and manufacturers are working on it, so rather than either or –, it’s just about developing a greater understanding of what is needed"

 


 

hearing aids for musicians

Discover the Oticon Real hearing aid range, including the MyMusic feature, below:

►Oticon Real 1 hearing aids

►Oticon Real 2 hearing aids

►Oticon Real 3 hearing aids

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Unlike most national retailers we are not owned by any manufacturer, this means we can offer the full choice of all makes and models of hearing aids

Are you a singer or musician and need more support with hearing aids? 

We can help you if you would like any more information on hearing aids for musicians, hearing healthcare or other hearing aid ranges - please call us free on 0800 567 7621 to speak with one of our audiologists.

Read Next:

►Interview with Professor Alinka Greasley

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This article was written by Paul Harrison - Audiology Expert

Meet Paul Harrison, Audiology Expert & Founder

Managing Director & founder of Hearing Aid UK, with over 20 years of audiology experience and a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists Council (BSHAA) between 2015-2020.

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Common FAQs about hearing aids for musicians

Can you hear sound and play music with hearing aids?

If your hearing aids and phone supports Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA), you are able to stream sound directly from your audio device to your hearing aids.

Can noise-induced hearing loss be corrected?

The short answer is no, but there are successful treatments to support better hearing - such as hearing aids.  Listening to loud noise for a long period of time can cause hair cells in the ear to die. These can not grow back and damage to the inner ear and/or auditory neural system is permanent.

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