Archive for the ‘Hearing aids’ Category

Hearing aids for musicians

October 30, 2021

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?


My hearing aid journey, part 2

November 26, 2019

I now have (and am wearing) my hearing aids. I got them yesterday, and so far my experience is definitely positive.

My initial thoughts were “how loud my clothes are swishing, and how loud this traffic is”, and I really noticed a difference in how my own voice sounded. But I could make speech out better, I think. Going for dinner in a reasonably loud restaurant today was good, and I could make out what my wife was saying easily – and I could listen to the conversation at nearby tables as well.

The effect on musical sounds its a little strange. For some time now, I had thought the top octave of my piano (which is nearly new) was a bit dead, but with the aids in it sounded much better. Indeed, the (real) piano sounded altogether better, with a very strong presence. Oddly, the electric one sounded just the same, which does seem strange. The aids do appear to introduce an artefact: even a pure tone at 2kHz sounds amplitude modulated at about 8Hz, and the exact sound changes depending on the angle of my head. (But a 1 kHz tone sounds much as it did).

I also noticed that listening to a weir on the local river, the sound of it – both the quality and the level – depended on the direction my head was pointing in.

But so far, I think they do make a difference, and my wife thinks so too. I need to test them in a more difficult environment, like a committee meeting or a relatively noisy public location…watch this space.

(A little later on) Playing my clarinet with the hearing aids in was a strange experience. Each note – particularly higher notes – seemed to have a bit of amplitude modulation, a little like vibrato, even though I definitely wasn’t putting any in. I had to take the hearing aids off to practice. Oh well: but if that’s the only problem, I’ll cope. I did hear something a little like this on piano – and more so when I tried playing a MIDI keyboard through a saxophone VST plug-in, but it wasn’t as annoying then!

My hearing aid journey: part 1

November 18, 2019

For some time now, I’ve been aware that my hearing was deteriorating. At first, I thought it was wax covering my eardrum, and to some extent it was. Last time (a few years ago) I had my ears micro-vacuumed, it really helped: previously I had gone up to students talking to me in tutorials in order to make out what they were saying. And again when I had my ears micro-vacuumed again recently, it did help, but my wife has been telling me for some time that I wasn’t hearing well.

I did have a simple pure tone audiogram produced a few years, ago, and it did indeed show 40dB or so lost at 4 to 8kHz, but I was not impressed by the audiologist who did the test. But now, having been impressed by the people who did the micro-vacuuming this time (Edinburgh Hearing Practice, at their Auchterarder location), I decided to go for a test with them.

This time the test was in a soundproof booth, and as well as pure tone audiometry, they tested me on isolated words presented to single ears (dichotically), and to speech presented in babble noise. This time I was impressed by the testing, and I could see from the results that my hearing had worsened, and I could see from the errors I’d made in identifying words that my loss of higher frequencies was getting in the way. I’d also noticed that I was finding it harder to make out speech in busy environments, or where there was often more than one speaker – in the common room, or in meetings, for example. It was beginning too make me stop attempting to have conversations in crowded environments

So it came as no surprise to me that my tester reckoned I should get a hearing aid. I know from my professional background that it’s worth getting an aid before one’s hearing really deteriorates too far, so I was open to his suggestions.

I went for it: two behind-the-ear (BTE) aids, with the receiver in the ear-canal (so my residual hearing should be unaffected). I’ll post again once I have them to try!