Music and hearing loss
Caroline wants to know about ipods and loop systems
Our Panel is made up of people who have long standing personal and/or professional experience of hearing loss. They offer practical advice for all kinds of problems. So if there's something on your mind contact us to see if we can help.
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Caroline writes 'I used to love listening to music so much! I have a severe and progressive hearing loss. I find that I can still enjoy some music e.g. jazz (it's so clean sounding) and simple vocals/guitar.
A lot of popular music with many different instruments is just noise to me now. I recently had a shot of a friends Ipod (mp3 player) I just took my hearing aids out and listened through his ear phones. The frequencies obviously were set for normal hearing, but WOW what a wonderful sound!
The quality of sound was so much better than the CD players I'm used to that I found myself really enjoying a band for the first time in years! I started to cry!
I've decided I definitely must invest in one and I'm keen to know if there are any with loop systems so I can use it with my hearing aids.
I would need to be careful when out and about though and have my hearing aids adjusted so they would pick up surrounding sound as well as the loop! Could be dangerous if out walking!'
The Panel reply
Music is something that is dear to my heart, I’m not a music fanatic but like you I like jazz, popular classical, military music etc.
When I had two 'in the ear' hearing aids prior to losing my hearing completely, I found it difficult to balance the volumes to match the amount of instruments in the different types of music. I was forever visiting the hearing aid dispensers to change the volumes as there was no volume control on each aid. Then my grown up children introduced my to the ipod and I, just exactly as you did, took the hearing aids out and Hey Presto!
Back in 2008 I gave my ipod away as I had no hearing, but I now have my implant and have a new ipod which I hear via a special audio lead connected direct to the implant – magic. I also hear the music with a pair of small headphones adjusted in the right way over the top of the microphones of the speech processor and that also does the trick.
Try the in the ear plug type headphones and also the older type 'over the ear' headphones which you can adjust in a way that they will cover the microphones on your hearing aids. These type of headphones can either block out all surrounding noise, or you can hear the music and the surrounding noise.
I even listened to my ipod at bedtime when my hearing aids weren’t i, and the music I missed for such a long time just sent me off to sleep. Try it sometime!
As you say, invest in an ipod and really enjoy your music. I’m not aware of any loop system that you can use with your aids, but why do you need such a system? You have to change your listening habits, and just listen to music at an appropriate time when you can remove your hearing aids in a safe environment. Use music when you’re not on the move and then you can remove your hearing aids and feel safe.
If you love to be out walking then why not use your ipod when you’re taking a break, viewing that lovely scenery that you walk.
I’d be very interested to know if you’re successful in trying to find that loop system.
Best wishes, David
For many of us with a progressive loss it is the fact that our hearing level is continually changing that brings the biggest challenge. Just when you think you have found the ideal solution it seems like the ‘goal posts’ move and you have to try something else. Having said that there is a lot of new technology out there and it is always worth talking to the various equipment companies if you have a specific problem. I have found Connevans particularly helpful. www.connevans.com/
I too have an iPod and would agree that the sound quality is much improved; personally I tend to plug mine into my car so I can listen to music when I am driving through the car system. I still struggle with lyrics particularly but it is (for me) clearer than the radio.
I have tried using a loop with my iPod when I was on the train but didn’t find this ideal as my loop picked up a dreadful buzz (from the train systems I think) which meant it was very poor quality and I gave up. Geemarc do make a loop especially for iPods which may be better but I haven’t tried it so can’t say for sure.
The major problem I have is that my hearing aid (like most other peoples) are set up for speech so tend to dampen the background sounds which can distort music significantly. If your hearing aids have the facility, and your audiologist is willing, they may be able to set you up a special programme for listening to music.
I hope you do find a solution that works for you and please do let us know how you get on.
Kind regards, Carol
Enjoying music with a hearing aid. Find out what audiologist Laura Turton says.
Losing music can be one of the hardest things to cope with when your hearing diminishes. How marvellous that you’ve come across a way rediscover it – hopefully for a long time to come.
There’s a straightforward way of using your aids to give high and reliable quality sound, especially for music. You can buy a little ‘shoe’ to input the music file (eg MP 3 player) directly into your aid. A shoe fits on to the bottom of each of your hearing aids. Then all you need are direct input leads, which will attach the shoes to your MP3 player.
The leads can also connect to your computer, a DAB portable radio, a digital voice recorder, an electronic keyboard – and even a metal detector, should you fancy a new hobby. Your aids will almost certainly have a direct input facility – but you may need to check with your audiologist that it’s ‘switched on’ (the work of a few moments for the audiologist). Then you should be up and running – to say nothing of singing and dancing!
A useful site to explain more about the system is www.connevans.co.uk Go to 'Deaf equipment/Hearing aid direct input shoes. Open the ‘Beginners Guide to Direct Input’ which explains it all very clearly.
You’re quite right to consider the safety aspect of wearing your MP3 player when out and about. As with any portable sound system playing directly into your ears, you’ll have to watch the effect it has on further muffling environmental sounds. You can make up your own mind about whether you’re safe enough using the system when out walking. But even having it in the house and garden is wonderful.
In the very unlikely scenario of your hearing aids not being able to operate this system, you may well benefit from using good quality wireless headphones, like the Sennheiser RS140, which let you rove all over the house and garden, with consistently good sound quality. Great for talking books and well as music and even listening to the TV.
Good luck with your new shoes, Ann
Congratulations! If you've found a method whereby you can hear music, stick with it. Music is one of my biggest losses and I've yet to find anything that works well - for me. The key words there are 'for me'. I think how you hear music is so personal and depends so much on the kind of hearing loss you have, that it really is a case of trying different things until you find something that works for you.
I suggest you contact the experts - Connevans, Solutions, Gordon Morris - and speak to them about neckloops and shoes (that attach to your hearing aids) that would be suitable for your hearing loss.
I have a music programme on my aids but it doesn't work as well as increasing the volume!
I recently asked my teenaged son what Lady GaGa sounds like. He directed me to a You Tube clip of 'Bad Romance' complete with subtitles. Success!
Best wishes, Fiona
One reader writes ....
'I have been reading your web panel and was surprised no one had informed or maybe not aware that as iPods have blue tooth then they can use the blue tooth wireless loop which is avaible for mobiles and the very best one for quality and connvience is the nokia LPS-5 here is the link for more information http://www.nokiaaccessibility.com/loopset.html
I am a bilaterial hearing aid wearer and I have been using this with my mobile for a couple of years and now have an iphone, it's the best quality loop I have ever encountered. I just paired my loop to my husband's iPod to test before emailing this message, and yes it works brilliantly and clearly.
My suggestion is to check out that if their mobile phone or any mobile music device has blue tooth then they should be compatable for the nokia loop LPS-5. This can be purchased either from nokia online, or I think it is cheaper on the action on hearing loss shop on line because we are exempt of VAT. Here is the link and as you will read it also has review for using with iPod http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/shop/lps-5-nokia-neckloop-for-mobile-phones-product-m485.aspx'
With a lot of help from other people here is my response ...
It's great to hear that you are getting into music again. After your letter I tried ear buds, and, hey presto, one can hear music – even with 70 dB loss! I doubt that I would pick up all the nuances or speech though. However, I would recommend anyone who has given up on music to have another try as modern aids and technology have made things better.
Before answering fully, a colleague has reminded me that, depending on your hearing, you may find that you can listen to music without your hearing aids to advantage – some musicians have found digital aids not very good. You've already found some success with ear buds. If you can borrow them, it might be worth a try with proper headphones. This would mean that you might be able to hear very low pitch sounds such as with organ music.
Essentially, there are two general ways to listen for a hearing aid user: through the hearing aid microphone (at a concert, at home from radio or TV) or directly (electrically) to the hearing aid. The latter may also be from a recording system (CD, MP3, tape).
However, let's concentrate on the hearing aid first. The hearing aid manufacturers recognise that our main problem is understanding speech and they do all sorts of tricky things like compressing loud sounds and focussing that can affect one's appreciation of music. However, most modern aids can have a 'music' setting included to get over this. So, first action is set to 'music'. If you currently have no such setting, ask your audiologist to include it (most digital aids have several special settings available on the audiologist's computer).
The next thing to remember is that many home loudspeakers (especially on TVs) will distort sounds to some extent and music officionados either have expensive systems or listen through a headset. As regards recording media, apparently CD is considered to be very good but an MP3 with 'high bit-rate' (the Ipod is one) virtually identical. Tape systems not so good.
So, us hearing aid users need to have something equivalent to a headset though an actual headset will probably be uncomfortable over your hearing aid as well as cause whistling.
We need some form of direct (electrical) connection to our hearing aid. Fortunately, there are plenty of options. Most radios, TVs, CDs, MP3s etc have a headphone socket and we can use this. (on a TV you may have to look around the back as using this socket cuts out the sound for the rest of the family)
There are many ways to connect this to your hearing aid however.
- You can use a 'shoe' so that there is direct wire input to your aid. You can purchase a shoe to fit your specific aid from people like Connevans.
- You can use a 'neck loop' with you hearing aid set to T.
- You can use a 'Bluetooth' neck loop to listen wirelessly to music on a mobile or top-end MP3.
- Depending on your hearing aid manufacturer you can buy special wireless systems - the Link range for Phonak and the Streamer system for Oticon.
I hope this helps you Caroline
Best wishes, Jack
PS. You should be able to set your hearing aid to T/M to pick up external sounds whilst out and about. If you used to like music but reckon that your hearing loss has put an end to it why not have a try?
PPS. For the scientists among you, here are a few details: Speech frequency range roughly 100 Hz to 3 or 4 kHz. Music frequency range roughly 50 Hz to 10 kHz or more. Hearing aid frequency range roughly 100 Hz. to 6.5 kHz. Once set up properly taking our audiogram into account we should hear over this range. (roughly low C to above top C on a piano). Inductive coupling (T or loop) up to about 10 kHz but may have reduced transmission for low frequencies (@ 100 Hz). Shoe, Bluetooth full range of frequencies (20 to 20KHz).