Hearing aids and music don't always blend well. If you're a long-time hearing aid user, you might have noticed how the gadget sometimes doesn't emit audible sound quality when transmitting from music listening devices—even if it has excellent speech understanding. Is this a sign of severe hearing loss? Not necessarily.
Surveys show that around 67% of patients who use hearing devices have trouble listening to music. This issue is not the result of worsening hearing loss symptoms. Rather, it indicates that one's hearing aid does not have the necessary input level to pick up and transmit the distinct notes musical instruments produce.
Each sound has a corresponding frequency. The key is to adjust the frequency response of your hearing aid according to what you want to pick up. For example, the sound you hear in outdoor environments (e.g., cars, animals, people) is different from what a TV or music player emits. Unless you have a device made for music perception, the songs from a music player might come off as inaudible.
Casual music lovers who simply want to enjoy their favorite songs and musicians can ask their audiologist to adjust their hearing device. However, hearing aid users who work in the music industry might have to get a specialized model. Visit your local audiology clinic and shop around for hearing aids that can pick up different levels of sound frequencies and transmit them in the best quality possible.
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The reason why some hearing aids don't read music performance as well as they pick up speech is these sounds have a different frequency range. Speech has a frequency region of around 250 to 8,000 Hz. Meanwhile, musical instruments produce a wider scope of frequencies that could be anywhere from a deep bass of 50 Hz to a high overtone squeal of 16,000 Hz.
A hearing aid for listening to music needs a versatile pitch perception system. Unlike with speech patterns, frequencies can rise and drop at any point when you're listening to songs, so your device has to match that level.
Here are several ways how musicians and music lovers can program their hearing aids to become capable of picking up high-level music input:
HRX is short for headroom extension. It's a feature that your audiologist can add to the hearing aid's circuit to dynamically increase the input range the A/D converter picks up.
Most hearing aids that you'll find in the average clinic have 16-bit A/D converters. This chip is ideal for speech signals. If you're looking to improve the frequency input your device can convert, however, consider upgrading to a 20- to 24-bit A/D converter architecture.
If you're not a professional musician, hiring audiologists to reprogram your already pricey hearing aid might be a bit inefficient. A good fix here is to place tape over your hearing aid's microphone. This trick drastically dampens microphone sensitivity down to 5 to 10 dB so your A/D converter won't have a hard time detecting high-input, non-speech signals.
The biggest weakness of the average hearing aid is its A/D converter. This device can only detect a very limited input. You can improve device performance by adjusting the sound sensitivity and range of the A/D converter.
The hearing aid industry primarily manufactures devices made for detecting speech signals. If you want a hearing aid that's capable of picking up and converting non-speech signals such as musical notes, you'll have to consult with an audiologist.
A global study conducted by various researchers shows how big of an impact hearing impairment is for older adults, specifically those over 65.
The University of Iowa's Health Care center goes in-depth on the differences between hearing aids used for speech and music.
Hearing loss is a very common issue that primarily affects the elderly. Being unable to understand music, TV programs, or even other people can be quite scary and embarrassing, but it's crucial to remain objective about the issue.
The best approach here is to book an appointment with a medical professional. Audiologists have the training and experience to accurately diagnose patients and prescribe the necessary hearing aid based on their needs.
Don't attempt to self-diagnose because programming hearing aids is not an easy task—even for the most trained musicians. Attempting to do so may do more harm than good. Plus, considering the average hearing aid costs around $1,500, it wouldn't be advisable for patients to blindly tamper with these pricey devices.
Looking for more ways to improve your senior loved one's quality of life? Senior Strong has multiple resources that help readers understand how to take care of seniors suffering from poor hearing, a lack of mobility, and other age-related complications. Visit the Senior Strong website now!