Hearing aids for musicians

Yesterday I attended (via Zoom) a seminar about the use of hearing aids for listening to music, and for those who play music. It was given by Dr Alinka Greasley (University of Leeds), and was part of the Hearing Aids for Music (HAFM) project.

The content very much agreed with my own experience with my Oticon Opn S1 hearing aids: I suffer from typical older age hearing loss (presbycusis), and my aids (binaural) have two settings: normal and music. Both are very good at making speech more intelligible, including speech in noisy environments. The speech and music settings are usable for listening to music, but in general, I prefer to turn the hearing aids off. For playing music (I play piano and clarinet) I absolutely must turn them off: they make the music appear to have a continuous vibrato at about 4 or 5 Hz, which I find very annoying. (I also note this vibrato particularly strongly from the chime of my old pendulum clock).

What is happening here, and what might be done about it? The HAFM blog (6 July 2020) suggests “removing adaptive functionality (e.g. feedback cancellation, noise reduction), alterations to compression, changes to gain”. This was also the view from the seminar speaker, and other attendees.

My own experience suggests the same: but in addition, being able to switch quickly from the speech settings to either entirely off, or some other simpler program and back again would be most useful. For example, I often run the Dunblane Folk Club, a sing-around with instrumentalists as well. I need to be able to play, and then take part in the craic! And similarly, for being in a jazz band practise: I need to be able to quickly go from playing to talking to the other performers, and back again.

My own hearing aid is integrated with an app on my iPhone, and this allows me to change programs, reasonably quickly. But turning them on and off is relatively slow. What I most probably need is

1: a simple music program, one that amplifies the higher frequencies, but doesn’t have any of the other clever features that improve speech perception (but not music!).

2: the ability to switch quickly between these programs.

How do I go about achieving this? Can I get a program development tool that would fit my hearing aids? I know that my audiologist has a system that can reprogram the hearing aids, but I understand that the actual programs are developed by Oticon. Can they be made open source? Could I get to experiment with them?

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