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How to Enjoy Music with Hearing Aids

Published: December 8, 2020

Updated: July 20, 2022

Hearing aids serve as the gateway to new listening experiences and improved communication with your loved ones. The main function of hearing devices is to provide amplification to sounds that an individual can no longer detect or hear. Hearing loss can be caused by a wide variety of things such as an infection, genetic disorders, stroke, exposure to extremely loud noise, or damage to inner ear hair cells resulting from injury or old age. Hearing difficulties associated with these causes can be present in one or both ears. Whether you like to listen to Luther Vandross, or you sing like him, it is important to have hearing aids that can allow you to enjoy music. Read on further to know and understand the relationship between your hearing aids and music.

How hearing aids work

Hearing aids are made of unique parts that all have a different function. They consist of a microphone that picks up sound, an internal component that amplifies the sound, and a speaker that sends the signal to the ear. The hearing aid battery plays a vital role as it helps power-up the whole process. The most basic hearing aids include:

  • Battery door – which opens and closes to allow for battery changing
  • Volume control – helps you control the level of loudness
  • Earmolds, slim tubes, or receiver wires – attach to the hearing aid device and fits into the ear
  •  Program button – to help switch from one environment program to the next

All these parts play a vital role in the processing of incoming sound signals (i.e. wind blowing, whistle, speech sounds) and in essence for you to enjoy listening to music with hearing aids.

The difference between speech sounds, environmental sounds, and music

All noises are created differently and how we hear these noises matters. This is an important fact because hearing aids need distinct technology to help differentiate between unnecessary background noise, speech, and sounds like a bird whistle. Music is however different and on a level of its own. It is made up of a composition of unique sounds that are far more audible than speech.

Music is a spectrum that has a variety of genres created through a mixture of sounds and noises. Added to this complexity are recording settings and vocals. This makes it difficult for hearing aids to cater to an individual’s hearing preferences in a musical environment because of the range music has. Speech and general hearing require basic technology to fine-tune hearing aids but music requires more technological tools and strategies.

A common problem with hearing aids and music

For a long time, the focus for many manufacturers has been to ensure that the hearing aids process speech and environmental sounds. Modern-day hearing devices developed by high-end companies (such as Oticon, Starkey, Lexie Hearing Aids, Phonak, or Sivantos) are working hard to solve problems related to the use of hearing aids and music. When it comes to the use of hearing aids, there is one main issue with the clarity and enjoyment of music, feedback cancellation.

The latest hearing aids have software that works to filter out unwanted noise in the environment. This helps with how you communicate with others in sound-heavy settings such as restaurants. According to this software, music is unnecessary noise that should be canceled, meaning you cannot enjoy it because it’s not being detected. This is unpleasant for most musicians and music lovers.

Listening to music with hearing aids

Hearing aids and music can be a tricky combination. When choosing from a range of hearing aids, keep in mind the expectations you have for your device. Hearing aids are adjustable regardless of the kind of hearing aid you have (i.e. BTE, ITC).  This means that your hearing healthcare professional has access to tools and programs that can fine-tune your devices according to your hearing loss and preferences. Music may sound strange and distorted when you wear and use your hearing aids for the first time. This is because of the adjustment period where your ears and brain need some time to get used to hearing “new sounds” before you can enjoy listening to music with hearing aids.

If you are a musician or music lover, speak to your hearing healthcare professional about the different options that will help capture the nuance and quality of music. For this purpose, Bluetooth connectivity plays a vital role. Most smartphones (such as Samsung or iPhone) have that level of accessibility and can connect your hearing aids to your phone. This will make it easy for you to stream your music.

Wireless connectivity works well for music because it’s streamed directly to the device and this can also help with other activities such as watching videos and answering phone calls. The iPhone is known for having incredible features that you can control seamlessly when connecting your hearing aids. The hearing aid compatibility feature is one of them, and it helps improve audio quality with some hearing aids.

For a different experience, try connecting your hearing aids with surrounding speakers. This can be done through direct streaming, which your hearing healthcare professional can set up for you. Avoid using speakers regularly as they can reduce the quality of the sound and make listening to music unpleasant or difficult.

Depending on the type of hearing aid you have, headphones can also be helpful. If you currently own a BTE (Behind-The-Ear) hearing aid, you may need headphones that fit in or on top of the ear. This is because the microphone responsible for picking up the sound is outside the ear canal. Good headphones would be ones that fit comfortably and are at a distance of at least 1cm from the microphone as this may cause feedback (whistling). Some headphones have a noise-canceling feature which can be of incredible benefit.

If you own an ITC (In-The-canal) hearing aid, you have the option of using either over-ear or in-ear headphones. Individuals who use Completely-In-The-Canal (CIC) hearing aid are at an advantage because they have a wider variety to choose from including over-ear, in-ear, or earbud headphones. It is important to note that not all hearing aid types work equally well with all headphones; discuss and try appropriate options with your hearing healthcare professional.

Newly developed hearing devices should be your first choice if you want to continue your joyous relationship with music. Your hearing healthcare professional can give you a detailed list of devices with music-friendly features. Make use of different hearing aid websites to browse through what companies have to offer for your musical needs.

Image of post writer Katlego Mogapi.

Written by Katlego Mogapi

B. Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology

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