Jump to content
Mander Organs
Sign in to follow this  
MikeK

Organists with hearing problems

Recommended Posts

My audiologist has suggested that I share my problem with fellow board members to see if anyone has experienced the problem I am having in coping with a mild hearing loss.

 

I have been supplied with nhs hearing aids which help well with most situations but are unable to deal with music, particularly organ music. I have had the aids 'tweaked' about 5 times so far, with no real success & I am therefore thinking of going down the 'private' route. Before I do, I wondered whether anyone has any recommendations or experience of high-end hearing aids they are willing to pass on. The particular problem I am experiencing is an 'out-of tuneness' best described as making the organ sound like a badly out-of tune fairground instrument. A similar effect can be created by turning the 'chorus' effect up to maximum on an electronic instrument. Listening to recorded music sounds as though it is being shaken around in a tin!

 

Before spending a lot of money I wondered if any fellow organists can offer me some tips?

 

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't offer any direct experience, I'm afraid, but I am about to try out some high-end Phonak hearing aids from Boots. These retail for about £3000 per pair, which is why I am hesitating!

 

The good news, however, is that one can buy them and, if unsuitable in any way, they can be returned for a full refund before 60 days. They can't say fairer than that.

 

The audiologist I have seen so far is a very helpful and knowledgeable young lady. I have had a thorough hearing test (about an hour) and am presently considering which model to go for.

 

My personal difficulty is a problem with irritation of the exterior ear canals when wearing my NHS hearing aids, although the young lady assures me that she'll be able to help in that respect.

 

"Listening to recorded music sounds as though it is being shaken around in a tin!"

 

I can well appreciate that. My hearing loss is in the high frequencies and when I first started to wear hearing aids I experienced that very thing. Perfectly logical, of course, as I have not been hearing high frequencies properly, but with the hearing aids they are now more than noticeable!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have normal age related hearing loss, which in practice manifests itself (as far as the organ is concerned) that I can barely hear the top note of full-compass Fifteenth at about 8 kHz. In everyday life I also have occasional difficulties 'catching' speech, not so much in live situations but on TV etc.

 

I paid, not to see a mere high street audiologist, but an ENT consultant surgeon with whom I was able to have a satisfying discussion about the issues. I explained that I was a physicist and musician and the discourse was at the level of the physics of music and the physiology of the ear and brain. After examining my ears he stated unequivocally that I would find any hearing aids subjectively unsatisfactory for enlivening musical experience. The main reason appears to be that the brain accommodates itself over many years to the slow high frequency deterioration which starts in one's forties, and suddenly attempting to compensate for the high frequency loss in later life is rejected by the brain which does not process the signals in the way one might expect. He did say however that speech comprehension would be noticeably improved. He also pointed out that part of the problem is the relatively poor quality of even the best hearing aids when measured in the HF region against the normal hi-fi criteria applied to stereo systems etc.

 

Some of the experiences related in the posts above seem to bear out what he said.

 

When listening to music I use a set up with elaborate tone controls which not only affect the amount of boost but enable the frequency at which the boost begins to be selectable. But even this sounds contrived if overdone, using both loudspeakers and headphones, and most of the time I just use a flat (or nearly flat) response. Therefore this also tends to confirm what the consulant said, that a similar effect would obtain even with the best hearing aids.

 

Of course, I can only speak of my own experiences. Other people might be quite different.

 

CEP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My wife has been largely deaf from childhood. In her 40s I persuaded her to change from relying on lip-reading and old NHS aids to having top-end in-ear ones. She started with some from Resound, which proved the point but turned out to be embarrassingly likely to fall apart - I got quite adept with the superglue! We also had trouble with their agents back then, which their European MD sorted effectively.

 

But since then she has had Siemens aids. Her current ones cost about £4,000, I think. They have a number of programs for different environments, including one for music which as a music lover she finds well worth-while in most circumstances. She only has to set one aid, as they communicate. She also has a Phonak device which hangs around her neck and translates between Bluetooth and whatever the aids detect, which can link them to her phone for use as a radio (she can be listening to the radio without any visible or audible clue, which before I got used to it led to some strange interactions) - it also has a built-in microphone, but that's not as good as the aids themselves.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem with modern hearing aids, expensive or otherwise, is the inherent shortcoming of all digital devices - delay. Any sound heard directly arrives early compared to that through the aid. I find the only answer is to remove my hearing aids before listening to music or playing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The particular problem I am experiencing is an 'out-of tuneness' best described as making the organ sound like a badly out-of tune fairground instrument. A similar effect can be created by turning the 'chorus' effect up to maximum on an electronic instrument. Listening to recorded music sounds as though it is being shaken around in a tin!

I went to Boots for hearing aids as I wanted ones which didn't distort music and, especially, organ music. I got expensive Phonak ones.

 

For general use they are great, and the audiologist very helpful. However I found that the higher pitches were being very badly distorted (including the harmonics on reed stops). I downloaded an app (PA Tone) onto my tablet so I could show the audiologist what pitches were distorting. She was extremely helpful but it took ages before she solved the problem. It turned out, in my case, that it was the "whistle block" that was causing the problem and when she turned it off the sound was perfect. It amazed me that she wasn't aware that this might have been the problem as I would have thought others would have experienced the same thing. (It's not just organ music, of course, though the distortion is most obvious with the high frequencies.)

 

She set up a "Music" programme on my aids and, on that, the whistle block is disabled.

 

I'm not aware of any problem with delay.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most hearing aids are designed to help hear speech- the 'music'programmes seldom make very much difference apart from increasing bandwidth here and there, although it is a useful extra feature sometimes in addition to a 'loop'setting.

It is very likely that the consultant was on the right lines when stating that when a hearing aid amplifies the frequencies where hearing is impaired it disrupts the adaptation that has taken place in the brain (probably over the course of a decade). The audiologist then faces the difficult task of trying to adjust the aids to a level that feels acceptable to the wearer, but does not 'agree' with the level of gain prescribed in the fitting software. In most cases the environmental adaptation in the higher-end instruments cope with indoors vs outdoors, compression in noisy surroundings etc, but organ playing is usually rather niche and perhaps the best that can be hoped for is an additional, quieter 'adaptation manager'that is sometimes put onto aids for new users.

Others prefer to remove the aids completely. Hearing losses vary so much that one person's experience will not necessarily be much help to another.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I went to Boots for hearing aids as I wanted ones which didn't distort music and, especially, organ music. I got expensive Phonak ones.

 

For general use they are great, and the audiologist very helpful. However I found that the higher pitches were being very badly distorted (including the harmonics on reed stops). I downloaded an app (PA Tone) onto my tablet so I could show the audiologist what pitches were distorting. She was extremely helpful but it took ages before she solved the problem. It turned out, in my case, that it was the "whistle block" that was causing the problem and when she turned it off the sound was perfect. It amazed me that she wasn't aware that this might have been the problem as I would have thought others would have experienced the same thing. (It's not just organ music, of course, though the distortion is most obvious with the high frequencies.)

 

She set up a "Music" programme on my aids and, on that, the whistle block is disabled.

 

I'm not aware of any problem with delay.

Thank you. That is extremely helpful for me, as the hearing aids I intend to get from Boots seem to be similar to yours. I shall mention this to the audiologist and ensure that I also have the 'Music' programme and that it will disable the 'Whistle Block' feature.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×