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Hearing Aids and Music
Over the years, I have heard many a complaint about hearing aids and that they make music sound tinny, harsh, or unpleasant to their listeners. Band directors have stopped playing Sousa marches because the woodwinds nearly give them coronaries. Orchestra conductors have been forced to turn down their favorite Wagner recordings. Choral performers have cursed Handel due to their frustrations of hearing music and having to hear it sound unnatural to them, not the way they remembered.
The reason music has had a less than stellar sound quality in the past is that the way the hearing aids themselves processed sound has been more focused on clarifying the speech signals to improve understanding in both quiet and noise than worrying about how music sounds to listeners. Therefore, while the industry had been working hard to help wearers hear speech better, they had not addressed the complaints about the sound quality of music.
Currently, many hearing aids offer “Music Programs” to their wearers, but even that isn’t always sufficient to fill the needs of some audiophiles. To some people, listening to music is just as if not more important than hearing speech. For a semi-technical explanation of music programs and their properties, click HERE.
I have listened to music through many hearing aids to see if I could understand what my patients were speaking of, and I have to agree. Music sounded tinny or metallic, not nearly as rich or full as it did to me normally. I had a much more difficult time discerning the sounds and instruments, and that was unacceptable to me as a musician. I could empathize with my patients.
However, there have been breakthroughs! ReSound has introduced the Verso line, and both the ReSound Verso 7 and ReSound Verso 9 have absolutely exceptional sound quality. I have never heard music sound as amazing through hearing aids as I did from those instruments. The sound quality is sharp enough and clear enough without being TOO much, and I could hearing the different melodies mingling the way it was meant to be heard. No pesky feedback or squealing occurred, even when I cranked up the volume of the music as well as the volume on the instruments. To read more about the Verso line of instruments, click HERE.
I have also had positive music listening experiences with the Sonic Innovations Flip line of instruments. With Sonic’s channel free design and sound processor, music is enjoyable and has a satisfying timbre. Sounds are clear without having too much treble or bass (although usually when people are having difficulty, it’s because there’s too much treble). To read more about the Flip line of instruments, click HERE.