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Music & hearing loss

 

Music and hearing lossAn audiologist advises ...

 

'Music with hearing aids is not like I remember it to be' is a common refrain among my patients. 

Depending on the severity of your hearing loss and the pitches you can no longer hear, music can sound distorted, with notes or even whole sections of the piece completely inaudible.

Many people find it’s actually better to remove their hearing aids to listen to music.

Why does music sound so different with hearing aids?

Hearing aids programmed to optimise the high frequencies of speech often can't pick up the lower frequencies of music. In addition, sound pressure levels (dBSPL) of music are usually higher than those of speech so the signal is often distorted as it passes through the hearing aid.    

Can hearing aids be adjusted for music?

If your hearing aid doesn't have a specific music programme your audiologist should be able to mimic one by applying the settings below:

  • Extension of the hearing aid's low frequency range 
  • One channel of amplification or a multi-channelled system where all compression parameters are set in the same fashion
  • Feedback manager disabled
  • Noise reduction settings disabled

There may be a bit of trial and error to get the settings optimised for the individual listener - but the only way to find out is to try it out.

Music and cochlear implants

Music research programme

Music and cochlear implants

'‘Loopy Birds’, ‘Cheese Suite’, ‘Calico Pie’ – you could be excused for thinking this an unusual line up for a concert intended for an adult audience.

However, this audience was very special, and the music choices chosen and written specifically to enable cochlear implantees to interact with, and enjoy, the lively programme.'

Read more about Debbie Broughall's musical adventure.

 

Comments from our volunteers, members and associates ...

 

Music still important

'I have been a singer and musician for over 30 years so losing my hearing at the age of 38 was a real shock! I have had to give up singing in a choir due to the feedback in my hearing aids, but still manage to play flute, guitar and sing in a band. None of this is without its challenges and frustrations but when music plays such an important part of who you are and what you enjoy then I am determined not to let hearing loss get in my way.'

'I love music and dancing but I can't make out the words. I used to follow them from record covers so I could try and sing along with everyone else!'

'I LOVE music, even though I have no hearing in my right ear and modarate in my left. Music is everything to me, I love listening to artists such as Emeli Sande, Jessie J, Ellie Goulding and Ed Sheeran to name a few. I just love listening to the tunes and beats as well as the lyrics, I love singing even though I'm terrible, music takes my mind away from all the tough things in life and spurs me on to work hard and be the best I can.'

Hearing aids

'I struggled with my new digital aids listening to and playing music. The sound and the volume was all wrong because of the compression program on them but I went back to the clinic and they adjusted them so I had a 3rd program with most of the compression removed. All is fine now.'

'My hearing aids produce strange effects when I'm listening to music. For example, they emphasise the harmony and soft-pedal the melody. So songs like Dancing Queen sound quite different from what Abba intended and from the way they sounded before I started losing my hearing.'

Anything to add?

 

Dame Evelyn Glennie

My experience of music

Dame Evelyn Glennie

Dame Evelyn Glennie says 'What kind of music do I like? Well, I have pretty eclectic tastes. I like many types of music - Baroque, Classical, Folk, Rock and Pop. Gary Barlow, Eminem, Rolling Stones, Annie Lennox, and Sting are among my favourite singers.

I like any artist who is innovative and willing to push the boundaries.'

 

Music gone forever

'I lost my hearing over a number of years and became totally deaf six years ago. Music is the thing I miss the most. I've been able to find a new way to communicate, use the phone, be alerted to the doorbell etc, but music is gone forever. I was lucky enough to enjoy the 80's so my 'memory jukebox' is from one of the best eras. When the memory jukebox isn't enough I sing which I am told is awful but then again I can't hear it ha ha!'

Remembering old music

'I have lost most of my high tones, so some music from my collection I can make it out; however some (e.g.artic monkeys which is quick with loads of guitars) is completely different.'

'New music is completely lost on me i.e. after my hearing loss, but old music I know through memory; however it never sounds the same, I used to listen to music loads, but now not as much, one of the down sides of hearing loss.'

'I used to love music. I knew all the tunes in the top 10 and have a massive collection of vinyl and MP3s but since my hearing loss in 2001 I'm unable to enjoy new music. I can still enjoy old music but that's because I know it from memory so can hear the words in my head. Just today I was thinking of trying new genres like jazz and classical which might be more in tune with the frequencies that I still have.' 

Music is uncomfortable

'My remaining hearing changes frequently but even when it is reasonable music is just a clanking and I can't pick out tunes that I know well. Worst part is it means that my husband no longer goes to music events as he won't go without me, but he has watched a few of the Proms. I find it best just to go and do something else when he is watching, as the sound I get is actually uncomfortable. Because of fluctuations and distortions in my hearing, the aid doesn't improve anything.'

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 'Music can positively affect anyone'

Feeling the vibrations. Concert for people with hearing loss. BBC National Orchestra of Wales

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales has a very active and innovative Education and Outreach programme, the aim being to give musicians the opportunity to widen their skills and develop as individuals.  

Trumpet player Andy Everton has developed a particular interest in work with people who have little or no hearing . Through taking part in workshops Andy formed the opinion that music and sound can positively affect anyone - regardless of level of hearing, and, if presented in the right way, the emotions of music as well as the sheer feeling (vibrations) can still make an orchestral concert of benefit to a Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing audience.

In October 2012 the BBC National Orchestra of Wales put on a concert specifically for people with hearing difficulties. The concert featured a mix of classical and modern pieces (The Marriage of Figaro, In the Hall of the Mountain King, Soul Bossa Nova). Throughout the evening members of the audience were able to move inside the Orchestra and experience various sounds and textures up close.

The concert was a pilot for a series of larger scale events to be held between 25th and 27th February 2013 at Sport Wales National Centre, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff.

Want to know more? Visit the BBC National Orchestra of Wales website.

Photo attribute: Betina Skovbro.

Music, hearing loss and ipods

Caroline recently discovered the joy of listening to music again - through her friend's ipod. 'I'm keen to know if there are any ipods with loop systems so I can use it with my hearing aids.' Read more.

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