Hearing problems and playing

September 12, 2018, 9:43 PM · How do those of you with some hearing loss deal with intonation and such? Not profound loss, but, say, 25% on the highs and lows. I'm 65.

Do you wear hearing aids? Does that hurt or help?

Replies (8)

September 12, 2018, 9:55 PM · I've got some hearing loss and constant ringing in my ears. I guess there might be some effect on the ability to hear the important overtones that are useful in establishing good intonation, but I'm not quite ready to blame my imperfect intonation on that. Concentration is still probably the weakest link for me.
Edited: September 17, 2018, 5:54 AM · I now wear prescription hearing aids. They help me immensely. I'd say my (probably inherited) hearing loss has become quite profound although it has been described as moderately serious. I would probably not understand at least 50% of what 30% of people tell me. I'm 19 years older than you.

I got mine at CostCo - their house brand. Take your violin in with you (at some point) to get them adjusted right for your music - and expect to have some adjustments made over 6 months to a year after purchase. CostCo will service your hearing aids for free as long as you own them (and they charge 35% to 50% of the typical retail price for similar aids - and no sales tax. Some adjustments above 6kHz will help with understanding speech, but you really don't need much above 4KHz for important string music overtones - maybe for "sparkle" though.

Start thinking in frequencies and decibels - percent is a rather ambiguous measure for hearing. It is my understanding that it is an attempt to relate to the percentage of words you cannot distinguish with certainty.

There is an on-line hearing test
( https://hearingtest.online/ ) you can take yourself
that gives the same results as an audiologist (if your failed hearing is due to typical, simple causes) within ±5 DB or so. I found any deviation from an audiologist's test is no greater than the deviation you would likely get from time to time in professional testing. I'd say that if your hearing is within 20 DB of the 0 DB standard for "normal hearing" you would not likely gain much from hearing aids (based on my experience with other older musicians who have had their hearing tested). Armed with an audiograph you can tell the hearing aid dispenser exactly how much correction you want at each frequency setting (for each ear) for the nominal settings you start with. Otherwisse I have found they tend to make the initial settings to high and cause many people to just give up on the whole business. You can adjust the hearing aids up or down about 10DB from the nominal settings for different purposes.

It actually took me 2 years before I got the hearing aides adjusted to exactly where I want them for both speech and music. I went back to the CostCo audio techs 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years after buying them for minor adjustments. And I think I dropped by on the 3rd year to get them cleaned on one of our CostCo shopping trips.

Makes my instruments sound like a $1,000,000 to me! Really!!!

September 12, 2018, 11:20 PM · Hell, it might have been 25 decibels. That seems like a lot though.
Edited: September 12, 2018, 11:39 PM · David - go back and see what I added to my post above yours. Also, failed intonation on a violin can also be due to overdriving the left ear causing it to hear sharp. Try sticking a wad of cotton or a wax ear plug (try for 12 - 18 db attenuation) and see if intonation is easier to discern when your right ear gets a better shot at it.
A 25 db hearing loss is not that much for music - maybe borderline.
September 13, 2018, 3:39 AM · I have mild conductive hearing loss, 17-20db, for which I wear 2 hearing aids.

I don't find this causes any issues at all. My aids are notspecifically designed or configured for music although tehy do have a music settings which uncompresses the sound so it is louder and in theory at least, clearer. I used to use this mode but I found the uncompressed sound to be too loud when playing in a symphony orchestra and the aids do not have any volume controls. This mode works ok when doing solo practice.

September 17, 2018, 4:57 AM · I have Etymotic's "Bean" for conferences and mumbling kids at table. It accepts loud sounds without distortion, but for my better ear, I stick a piece of scotch tape over the microphone.
September 18, 2018, 10:46 AM · I wear hearing aids due to some high frequency hearing loss. I've taken this article's advice (below) when dealing with my audiologist and adjusting my hearing aids. It has made a world of difference in my intonation and "ear" for music. My teacher and ensemble mates have commented on the accuracy of my pitch recognition and sensitivity to tone since I've "tweaked" my aids. A very interesting read for musicians with hearing problems.


September 18, 2018, 2:06 PM · I think my initial hearing loss was in the highs, 20 years ago when I first attempted violin. I could not tolerate any brightness from a violin. Wanted to smash them against the wall after a while, without really knowing why. I read somewhere at the time that when you have a loss in the highs, and highs are coming into your ear, they get translated chaotically. Not sure if that's true or not. Due to additional factors knocking down my hearing, I now need some more highs from a violin. I'd still rather not have the sound of crappy fiddles next to my ear though.

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