Hearing aids

October 4, 2022, 7:44 AM · As someone with borderline, age-related hearing loss, I’ve begin to trial hearing aids. The audiologist I consulted with provided me with Starkey aids for a 45 day, no cost trial. Although she said it can take some people up to 2 weeks to get comfortable with them, I had no trouble. Because I have medium length hair, they were virtually invisible. All seemed to be reasonably comfortable with minimal issues until I started to practice. Immediately I heard an intolerable “wobble” in the sound and had to take the aids out. When I was working with my grandson, the sound of his playing was similarly adversely affected. Since the violin is so important in my life, these hearing aids just won’t do! I’m wondering how other violinists have solved this problem.

Replies (10)

Edited: October 4, 2022, 7:54 AM · There was a good topic on hearing aids and violin several months ago. There were comments about different products and maybe different settings working better with music. My initial thought reading your post (with my only direct experience with this being my 86 year old dad's hearing loss) is wondering since yours is borderline at this point, whether the hearing aids are needed for playing and for helping your grandson.

Also, the previous topic made me wonder what will be coming in terms of OTC products now that the FDA allows this, and whether there will be e.g. AirPod apps for this (since music normally isn't an issue with AirPods).

Edited: October 6, 2022, 8:27 AM · This may be the link Stan referred to:

https://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=5537

Try turning off your left hearing aid when playing violin and see if that helps (It may or may not).

My experience has been that audiologists may try to improve patients' hearing "too much." If you have a copy of the audiograph your audiologist made look it over and see what the results show you.

If your graph results are higher than -20DB in the range up to 1,000Hz (i.e., 1 KHz) I would not consider wearing the aids when playing the violin. Higher than 1 or 2 KHz the curve will likely trend down (with age-onset hearing loss) and above that you will not gain much about your music that you will need to hear. However some important language (consonant sounds) is distinguished at higher frequencies.

If you have a headset you can use an online hearing test to generate your own audiograph. I have used the one at the following URL for years and it gives me the same result as my audiologist graphs:

https://hearingtest.online/

This test also has the advantage that I can also measure my hearing with my hearing aids installed and by subtracting the values I could tell my audiologists exactly how much amplification I wanted at each frequency they set.

I began to notice my hearing loss when I was 50 years old and compensated when playing violin by plugging my left ear when playing. By the time I was 60 I bought a $100 "hearing assist device" on line and used it in my right ear when playing violin and in my left ear when listening to people talk. (My left ear was "better" than my right ear.)
Around 7 or 8 years ago I purchased my first pair of real hearing aids at CostCo and had them adjusted specifically for playing violin and I still use them. My music sounds wonderful to me.

Almost 2 years ago I received an email ad for EarGo hearing aids and found my health insurance would pay for them - so I got those too. The whole process occurs on line - even the hearing test and the amplitude adjustments can be made remotely - even after you are using them. I am not as happy with the musical sound through EarGo, but the higher frequencies come through better (to me) and for some voice situations they are better. Now there are even more on-line hearing aid sources that can be covered completely by insurance (in the USA).

Edited: October 4, 2022, 9:32 AM ·
While not directly applicable, the following may be related.

I have some hearing loss in the high frequencies. While it doesn't affect my listening to music, nor does it affect my violin playing, it does affect my ability to tune an E string.

So, I purchased the following D'Addario NS Micro Violin Tuner from FiddlerShop.COM. It fits onto the violin's ribs and works great. It has it's own, small, color, video screen.

https://fiddlershop.com/products/d-addario-ns-micro-violin-and-viola-tuner

Versus sound, it responds to vibrations through the wood. I've checked mine against SoundCorset, and the two correlate perfectly. It can also detect sharps/flats of different notes, so it can detect all notes on the chromatic scale. It can be adjusted to different A's. I've set mine to 440.

Since it responds to vibrations and not sound, one can check tuning with very minimal sound. (For example, during a rehearsal or a performance.)


Edited: October 4, 2022, 10:43 AM · Hello, I’m 16 and have had hearing aids since I was 3. I have moderate hearing loss, so without my hearing aids I really can’t hear. I’ve been playing the violin since kindergarten and have had some problems. The first one was the high pitches can be distorted or create some ringing in the ears, but overtime I’ve found that problem solved itself. Also, it can be tricky to hear double stops and things like that, but it just takes practice getting used to your hearing aids responding to the violin. So about the noise you’re hearing, it might take some getting used to with your hearing aids and ears to respond to the violin. Also, the hearing aids may need to be reprogrammed without noise reduction. You could add a separate music program to them, but your hearing aids could automatically change to a music setting. Yours may not be able to do that. I hope everything works out for you.
Edited: October 4, 2022, 12:14 PM · I would recommend seeing an audiologist who has a specialty in dealing with musicians if one is available. I have Phonak 50 series aids which work very well. The new aids come with some features that need to be turned off to work very well with music, such as the frequency switching feature which caused a second ghost violin soloist to appear during streaming of music. It sounds as if your aids are activating the noise reduction mode when you are playing. A talk with your audiologist about your requirements is in order.

That being said, I usually remove the aids during practice and use them during lessons so I can hear my teacher's instructions. My loss increases to 70 dB in the higher range.

Edited: October 7, 2022, 7:51 AM · I too have Starkeys.
The "wobble" comes from the anti-feedback, trying to cancel what it thinks is a "Larsen" howl and then changing its mind, on and off.
When I pressed a button for the "music" programme, the effect was slower, but still intolerable.
Ask (i.e. insist!) that the anti-feedback is removed from the music programme. You may then need more closed ear pieces to avoid feedback.

The music programme also gives us a more natural and more extended spectrum, without exaggerating speech consonants (and rosin noise!).

My hearing "history" is the same as Andrew Victor's.
It was hard to find an audiologist who understood what all the fuss was about..

October 6, 2022, 11:11 AM · I do not have hearing aids (yet), but, to stem my hearing loss, I have filtered ear plugs which I use when playing violin or viola. They help limit the hearing loss, but when I use them, it sounds as if I am playing with a mute on my instrument, and I cannot hear well some of the nuances or some of the other orch members. I go next week to the audiologist because my hearing seems worse, and I hope to get hearing aids which will help me hear everything better and hopefully stem further loss when I play my instruments.
October 6, 2022, 1:17 PM · It's of utmost importance to consult with a good audiologist who will not only know your requirements but will understand how the hearing instruments need to be adjusted.
October 6, 2022, 1:49 PM · The last time I had my CostCo aids adjusted at CostCo I took a violin with me to make sure that the corrections (i.e., Amplitude vs. frequency) I had requested and that he had input were actually working for my violin sound to my ears. They were!

My Costco aids also have an amplitude adjustment range of 10 steps (5 above and 5 below the nominal setting of my aids) so as my hearing changes over the years I have been able to adjust the aids. I think it has been about 4 years since I last visited CostCo for that re-setting. I used the aids for music at 2 steps below that setting for 3 years but for the past year I have been using them at the "nominal" setting. I find that in conversation with some people I have to set the amplification a couple of steps higher (I think Cramer on the Seinfeld TV show called them "soft speakers" or something like that).

October 7, 2022, 7:50 AM · Just to add that the Starkeys are linked, so I can't leave just the right one in for orchestra. Then I use an Etymotic Bean in my right ear: consonants are emphasized (so I can understand the conductor..) and they are analogical, so any distortion is much more acceptable.
In my left ear I use an Etymotic noise reducer plug!

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