What's the Best Hearing Aid for Listening to Music?
Whether you’ve lived with hearing loss your entire life or recently received a diagnosis, you might be wondering what kind of enjoyment can be found in listening to music with hearing aids. Many people cite the loss of music as a serious downside to having hearing loss, and wonder if hearing aids can help them enjoy music again.
While some models might not yield the best listening experience, making music-friendly hearing aids has been a goal for many manufacturers and developers. There’s more to hearing than just speech and environmental sound, and music can play a large role in our lives. In fact, a high number of musicians develop hearing loss as they age, due to the noise exposure of concerts and band halls. Giving up music simply isn’t an option for them, and hearing aids are supposed to help with that. However, there are some issues with how hearing aids process music.
In this article, we’ll touch on various problems regarding hearing aids and music, and how modern hearing aids are going about fixing those problems.
The difference between speech, sound, and symphony
Not all noise is created equal. In fact, there’s a lot of nuances when it comes to what we hear and how we hear it. Because of that, hearing aids require special technology to differentiate between useless background noise, speech, and sounds like birdsong or announcements. Music is on an entirely different level, however. In a graph showing the hearing capabilities of humans, music is far more audible than speech. Creating hearing aids that can clearly hear everything is a large task, since the range is much larger.
This is made difficult by the fact that not all music sounds the same. Factors like genre, recording, and speakers can play a part in how music sounds. Because music is so varied, it’s nearly impossible to tailor hearing aids to everyone’s preferences. Instead, hearing aid manufacturers try to improve the base technology, and try to create an experience that is good for everyone, regardless of what or how they listen to music.
The core issue is that hearing aids must be built from the ground-up to handle music. This can be an intensive process and require additional technology to that for speech and general hearing. While some people might benefit from music-focused hearing aids, they still need to understand speech and hear things in their day-to-day lives. So, hearing aid manufacturers focus on what they will hear most: voices, sounds, and environmental noise.
How hearing aids can hinder music
For most people with hearing aids, the need to understand speech clearly is the ultimate priority. For this reason, speech understanding is a topic of focus among hearing aid developers. However, this focus on speech processing can take away from other aspects of hearing, particularly the clarity and enjoyment of music. Many hearing aid wearers report that music sounded a bit off and wondered how they could improve their listening experience. For musicians with hearing loss, this not-quite-right quality to their musical hearing had a serious impact on their ability to produce and perform music.
One reason for this is feedback cancellation. Most top-of-the-line hearing aids come with software that filters out unnecessary noise, which improves speech understanding and reduces the “cocktail party effect”. While this software performs well and allows people to communicate clearly, it can work against musicians and music lovers. Some musicians report that music sometimes lacks nuance, making it difficult for them to collaborate with their bandmates and fellow musicians.
For this reason, some people opt for older models of hearing aids, citing that they don’t filter out as much sound as their successors. While this is one solution, it comes with many drawbacks. While it might improve their enjoyment of music, it takes away from their day-to-day lives. Speech understanding is drawn back, along with feedback cancellation and other benefits that current models offer. The only well-rounded solution is to find a state-of-the-art hearing aid that offers everything, from sound and speech to music.
Listening to music with hearing aids
When choosing a hearing aid, it’s important to consider what you value, and what expectations you have for your hearing aids. While many people enjoy listening to music, they might benefit more from having refined speech software. It’s important to remember that you can enjoy music regardless of what type of hearing aid you have, it just requires adjustment. Most first-time wearers go through a period where they have to get used to their voice, noise, and music. This doesn’t mean music sounds bad, however. It just sounds different, and some distortion might be present.
For those that work in the music industry or depend on music, having a hearing aid that can capture the nuance and quality of music is important. In these cases, talking to your hearing care professional (HCP) about the matter is the first step to finding a hearing aid that will fulfill your needs. One of these needs is likely Bluetooth connectivity and direct streaming. A fair bit of the distortion can be solved using direct streaming, which eliminates the need for “middleman” devices like speakers and headphones.
If you are going to be listening to music regularly, headphones and speakers can reduce the sound quality and make it difficult to enjoy. A Bluetooth-capable hearing aid eliminates the need for those things. Many state-of-the-art hearing aids have the ability to connect to smartphones wirelessly, allowing the wearer to stream music using their hearing aids as headphones. This technology also works with audio from videos and phone calls.
Eliminating the need for speakers or over-ear headphones improves sound quality exponentially. The audio is not being played, picked up, and re-played through your hearing aids, it’s simply being streamed directly to you. This allows you to enjoy music anywhere, anytime. Many current hearing aids offer this technology, including the new Styletto Connect. Signia hearing aids also provide three settings for full music appreciation: one for listening to recorded music, one for live music at concerts, and one specifically for musicians and singers performing music.
Along with direct streaming, the latest hearing aid models offer “made for iPhone” technology, making them seamlessly compatible with your smartphone. This means you can control them remotely using your phone and toggle a number of features without removing them from your ears. For people that use Android phones, the StreamLine Mic achieves the same purpose, allowing you to make the most of your hearing aids’ Bluetooth capabilities.
If you’re looking for a pair of musically-inclined hearing aids, it might be worth investing in some newer tech. You can learn more about what hearing aid models might fit you by speaking to your HCP. They can compile a list of what models might benefit you the most. If you don’t have an HCP or want to switch providers, the Signia store locator uses GPS technology to locate people in your area. Choosing a hearing aid can be a big decision, and an HCP can guide you through the entire process, from buying to fitting.
If this article helped you, our other blog posts might answer more of your questions. Anything you want to know about your ears, how they work, and how hearing aids operate can be found on Signia Hearing. If we haven’t covered a topic yet, there’s a good chance we’ll tackle it in a future article. To stay updated, subscribe to our newsletter. In the meantime, we have an entire archive of articles and informational guides to help you learn more about ear health, hearing loss, and hearing aids.