Jump to content
Mander Organs
Colin Pykett

Hearing aids and the organist

Recommended Posts

2 hours ago, Colin Pykett said:

Having looked back through the posts above, some points seem to have been made several times and it might be worth summarising them:

1. Since hearing aids are mainly optimised for speech they may not work as well, or as expected, for organ music.  Several posters have remarked on the peculiar 'celeste', 'warbling' or 'fairground' sound imposed on organ music (as well as other sorts).

2. Better results for organ sounds might be obtained if your audiologist provides you with a separate, user-selectable, setting or 'program' for music.  This can be done on the cheapest aids and those offered by the NHS as well as the more expensive ones, but it seems that you might have to ask explicitly for it to be done rather than assume it comes as standard.

3. In some (most?) hearing aids the music program seems to turn off some or all of the clever automatic processing used for speech, in particular the 'whistle block' facility to prevent acoustic feedback.

4. The above means that when you switch to 'music' mode, your aids might start whistling (mine do).  This can be stopped by turning down the volume, though it means that the amount of compensation the aids can then offer is more limited than in 'speech' mode.

But all this must depend on the type of hearing defect you have.  The list above applies to me, and no doubt my type of hearing loss has unconsciously coloured what I've just written (I have moderate bilateral presbycusis - age related hearing loss in both ears with a moderate and similar amount of hearing still remaining).  Therefore none of it is written in tablets of stone and you would be best advised to take the advice of your hearing professional.  Having made this necessary disclaimer, I nevertheless think it's fair to say that we have jointly made useful progress here.  I've never seen anything like this before, and should therefore like to thank all those who have contributed so positively by sharing their knowledge and experiences.

Colin, if you are experiencing whistling, it suggests to me that your domes or moulds - the type depending on whether or not it is a "receiver in canal" aid - do not fit perfectly.  If that fitting is improved, you may get better results under all circumstances. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, john carter said:

John, in the "normal" program, your hearing aid, like mine, probably switches between different settings automatically, depending on what it thinks you want to hear.  That is fine for most of the time.  The change I have made is to have the option of fixing it in the "speech in loud noise" mode, which makes it easier to concentrate on the conversation you want. 

Thanks.  I hadn't though of that.  I'll ask if it could be fixed in that setting or, perhaps, switchable into fixed mode.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 20/10/2019 at 08:42, Colin Pykett said:

Over 10 years ago I put together an article about age-related hearing loss (the most common type which eventually affects many if not all of us) and its relation to the sounds of the organ.  It's at http://www.pykett.org.uk/arhlandob.htm if you are interested.  It includes mp3 clips of how organs might sound to people having varying degrees of ARHL and these have since been used quite widely as demo pieces in educational, musical and audio circles.

Having now had the opportunity to read your article thoroughly, I'd like to thank you for this highly interesting and educational article.

One of the things that occurred to me is to question how organ builders/voicers should create their instruments.  Assuming that, whatever the level of their hearing, they have the means to (perhaps electronically?) accurately determine and quantify the frequency content of the various pipes they create, should they voice the pipes/organs to suit a young audience or an old audience?

Perhaps they might look at a typical organ recital audience and think, "Yes, we should go for the 60+ option"!  (I'm only half-joking.)

In all seriousness, I believe it is not possible to voice an organ to suit perfectly the hearing of both typical young and typical old listeners.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 21/10/2019 at 11:46, Steve Goodwin said:

Thank YOU, Colin, for starting this thread. It's made me realise that there might be something that can be done!

Steve

Thanks Steve.  I hope you can resolve your problems.

On 21/10/2019 at 14:13, john carter said:

Colin, if you are experiencing whistling, it suggests to me that your domes or moulds - the type depending on whether or not it is a "receiver in canal" aid - do not fit perfectly.  If that fitting is improved, you may get better results under all circumstances. 

That's possible John, though I think they are of the 'open' type which let ambient sound through.  Must check this though - good point.

1 hour ago, John Robinson said:

Having now had the opportunity to read your article thoroughly, I'd like to thank you for this highly interesting and educational article.

One of the things that occurred to me is to question how organ builders/voicers should create their instruments.  Assuming that, whatever the level of their hearing, they have the means to (perhaps electronically?) accurately determine and quantify the frequency content of the various pipes they create, should they voice the pipes/organs to suit a young audience or an old audience?

Perhaps they might look at a typical organ recital audience and think, "Yes, we should go for the 60+ option"!  (I'm only half-joking.)

In all seriousness, I believe it is not possible to voice an organ to suit perfectly the hearing of both typical young and typical old listeners.

Thanks for the kind remarks John.  Since becoming a member of the hearing aid generation I've come across instruments which were distinctly different to what I had been accustomed to previously.  In one of them the treble (penultimate) octave of the great 15th was excessively prominent whereas this was not so without the aids.  My first thought was that the frequency response of the aids produced a peak in that region when combined with that of my ears.  However when I checked the top octave of the 4 foot principal, which sounds at the same pitch of course, there was no problem.  So I assumed the artefact was probably genuine and related to the organ itself rather than the aids.  It would be instructive to take a young person with some musical experience along to see what their excellent ears tell them about experiences like this one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Picking up on John Robinson's  (‎20‎/‎10‎/‎2019 at 08:42) point: "Perhaps they might look at a typical organ recital audience and think, "Yes, we should go for the 60+ option"!  (I'm only half-joking.)"

I wonder whether the customary glance down the nave once a service has started, to decide how hard to thump the hymns, should include a rough age scan as well as just quantity to give consideration of using brighter choruses for play throughs. Also giving the incumbent (+20 yr older than me) 8+4, or an 8 with strong partials, for a chanting note might be fairer than a box muffled 8, or even to ask the chap's opinion on a few options.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, OwenTurner said:

Picking up on John Robinson's  (‎20‎/‎10‎/‎2019 at 08:42) point: "Perhaps they might look at a typical organ recital audience and think, "Yes, we should go for the 60+ option"!  (I'm only half-joking.)"

I wonder whether the customary glance down the nave once a service has started, to decide how hard to thump the hymns, should include a rough age scan as well as just quantity to give consideration of using brighter choruses for play throughs. Also giving the incumbent (+20 yr older than me) 8+4, or an 8 with strong partials, for a chanting note might be fairer than a box muffled 8, or even to ask the chap's opinion on a few options.

😄  Yes!

On the other hand, I was wondering whether organ builders consider how brightly they voice their instruments bearing in mind the potential audience - predominantly young or aged.

For example, most churches - perhaps brighter upper work to enable older people to hear it; university colleges - hold back on the strong upper work so as not to deafen the younger ones.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, John Robinson said:

😄  Yes!

On the other hand, I was wondering whether organ builders consider how brightly they voice their instruments bearing in mind the potential audience - predominantly young or aged.

For example, most churches - perhaps brighter upper work to enable older people to hear it; university colleges - hold back on the strong upper work so as not to deafen the younger ones.

... and it's also going to depend on the age of the voicer. We all suffer from age-related hearing degradation even if we don't need a hearing aid so the same pipe is likely to sound different to a 40 year old or a 60 year old organ builder.

Steve

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On John's point "university colleges - hold back on the strong upper work so as not to deafen the younger ones"...

I think that this has to be balanced against the musical maturity and restraint of the player. Personally, I was way too loud and quickly up the choruses to screaming mixture (and also sometimes trying to emulate some of the recorded Hurford mutation registrations, eg 8 + larigot with not much in between) in my late teens in university days, and I hear that as fairly common in younger players when out of earshot of teacher!

My similar aged student audience, if interested at all, was similarly keen on loud and sonic thrill too.

An idealistic, through ridiculous, extrapolation of this dialogue is that the expected audience, organ consultant, voicer and player all need to be similar ages!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, Steve Goodwin said:

... and it's also going to depend on the age of the voicer. We all suffer from age-related hearing degradation even if we don't need a hearing aid so the same pipe is likely to sound different to a 40 year old or a 60 year old organ builder.

Yes, of course.  In my earlier post I suggested that they might be able to us technology to determine the exact strength of all the frequencies present in each note.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, OwenTurner said:

An idealistic, through ridiculous, extrapolation of this dialogue is that the expected audience, organ consultant, voicer and player all need to be similar ages!

Even more ridiculous, give each member of the audience one of those 'clicker' things they seem to use on game shows, whereby each audience member can select 'brighter' or 'duller', and go with the majority vote!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 24/10/2019 at 11:54, OwenTurner said:

 

 

 

A bit off topic, I'm afraid. 

I'm as deaf as a post, partly because I'm 80 and largely because I spent too much time sandwiched between a pair of Pratt and Whitneys. I have to take organs as I find them - my aids despite being expensive, do not have speech/music or any other sophistication beyond a simple volume control. The digital program is biased towards the higher frequencies as a function of my aural "presbyopia" but the top half of a 4' is not good and I'm lucky if I can get as far as a break-back; any 2' rank is quite beyond me. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the loss of brightness in mixtures and those partials which contribute so much to a pipe's character. This is a situation, perforce, I must accept.

However, I have found that when listening to recorded music, to a useful extent I can compensate for my aural shortcomings with a 15-channel graphic equaliser.  This is an irony since I have spent so much money in seeking a flat response curve in the first place, only to distort the output in such a crass manner. But it does work to an acceptable degree for me - it may do for others too. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Cornet IV said:

A bit off topic, I'm afraid. 

...

However, I have found that when listening to recorded music, to a useful extent I can compensate for my aural shortcomings with a 15-channel graphic equaliser.  This is an irony since I have spent so much money in seeking a flat response curve in the first place, only to distort the output in such a crass manner. But it does work to an acceptable degree for me - it may do for others too. 

It doesn't seem off-topic to me, and I entirely agree.  I've done exactly the same with my digital organ here at home with an array of 15-channel graphic equalisers, one equaliser for each audio channel.  Since each equaliser incorporates two independent units (because they are stereo devices), one only has to buy half the number of units as channels that one wants to equalise.  Without my hearing aids it now enables me to hear half way up the top octave of a 15th stop, but with a much cleaner and less distorted sound than the 'music' program on my aids provides.  And it's easy to bypass them and revert to a flat response just by pressing the 'bypass' button on each unit - useful when a younger visiting organist wants to play.

An unanticipated spinoff is that youngsters such as visiting teenagers who are heavily into audio are blown away by the sight of all these GEs sitting on top of the organ console - I've mounted them in a small 19 inch equipment rack enclosed in an oak sleeve , rather like the professional audio gear one sees in the recording consoles and mixing desks in places such as the Abbey Road studios!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also responding to John's suggestion: "For example, most churches - perhaps brighter upper work to enable older people to hear it; university colleges - hold back on the strong upper work so as not to deafen the younger ones."

With age related hearing loss (presbycusis) and with most forms of hearing loss, we also need to remember that the sound pressure level that causes discomfort reduces. In other words, younger people tolerate louder sounds before experiencing discomfort than older people. Thus, we might need to refrain from 'letting fly' if we are using a particularly powerful instrument and the audience is more mature.

It is because of this that an audiologist should also measure how loud particular frequencies are tolerated before discomfort begins and feed that into the prescription to determine the compression and output limits for a hearing aid. One of the advantages of a more expensive hearing aid is that this can be done with greater precision rather than a device where only broader frequency ranges can be adjusted.

The hearing aid industry is, understandably, not keen to acknowledge the very low continued usage rate for purchases of their devices. When I last checked, less than half of the instruments sold did ended up in a bed side drawer permanently within weeks of purchasing. Considering that some devices cost many thousand pounds, that's an indication of the difficulties in this industry.

Unfortunately, also, in my country a lot of selling of devices is driven by incentives offered by manufacturers and government subsidies for follow up after fitting are not enough to maximise the benefit and minimise poor fittings.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Something to keep in mind when selecting a hearing aid is that all digital aids have some delay between receiving the sound into the aid's microphone and output a sound into your canal. This is unavoidable as their processing transforms the signal from the time domain to the frequency domain where the signal processing takes place and back into the time domain to be fed into your canal. This process relies on storing a small amount of sound before initiating the transformation on it - input and output buffers.

This delay can be minimised but not eliminated, and for people who find the latency on digital instruments annoying, this could be a problem with such a device. 

If a manufacturer offers a return by period with full refund, make use of it and don't be shy about taking the devices back if it is not usable. The manufacturers are highly profitable, partly because people that aren't happy simply leave the device in a drawer rather than ask for a refund. It does take time to become used to a device, and audiologist will push customers to try to become used to their device, but if that is not possible, they should be agreeable about acknowledging this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, Fiffaro said:

Something to keep in mind when selecting a hearing aid is that all digital aids have some delay between receiving the sound into the aid's microphone and output a sound into your canal. This is unavoidable as their processing transforms the signal from the time domain to the frequency domain where the signal processing takes place and back into the time domain to be fed into your canal. This process relies on storing a small amount of sound before initiating the transformation on it - input and output buffers.

This delay can be minimised but not eliminated, and for people who find the latency on digital instruments annoying, this could be a problem with such a device. 

If a manufacturer offers a return by period with full refund, make use of it and don't be shy about taking the devices back if it is not usable. The manufacturers are highly profitable, partly because people that aren't happy simply leave the device in a drawer rather than ask for a refund. It does take time to become used to a device, and audiologist will push customers to try to become used to their device, but if that is not possible, they should be agreeable about acknowledging this.

Sound advice, if you'll pardon the pun.

Fortunately, my (expensive) hearing aids are very good, with one exception: I hear people chatting at the back of the room more effectively than my wife sitting opposite me!  Unfortunately, the audiologist can no offer a solution.

I paid a lot of money for my hearing aids and there's no way I'm going to leave them in a drawer.  On the other hand, my old NHS hearing aids do sit in a drawer on the off chance that I need them in the case of necessary repair to my private ones, which has happened some time ago.  When the six year guarantee runs out and a repair becomes necessary at cost, depending upon the cost, I may decide to revert to the NHS aids.

Regarding your initial, more important point, I can honestly say that I have not noticed any latency with these hearing aids and I assume that they being near to top-end models (or they were when I bought them) that they would employ the signal processing you describe.  Perhaps I'm lucky! 

I presume that in the absence of any scientific test equipment, I can gain some sort of evidence by relating the sound I hear from the television to the movement of lips on the screen!  I have also done this without hearing aids for comparison.

Interesting post.  Thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A few people commented on the slight but annoying delay with digital hearing aids when this was last discussed in 2017. Not a bad idea to revisit the discussion since the delay is down to processing power and over a couple of years technology will have moved on somewhat so perhaps the delay is less annoying now. Alternatively ditch the expensive digital and scan Ebay for old analogue hearing aids being given away that have decent treble frequency adjustment! At least they won't have any processing delay.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Contrabombarde said:

A few people commented on the slight but annoying delay with digital hearing aids when this was last discussed in 2017. Not a bad idea to revisit the discussion since the delay is down to processing power and over a couple of years technology will have moved on somewhat so perhaps the delay is less annoying now. Alternatively ditch the expensive digital and scan Ebay for old analogue hearing aids being given away that have decent treble frequency adjustment! At least they won't have any processing delay.

I'm sure this must be right - digital technology forges onwards relentlessly in all other fields, so it would be surprising if this doesn't apply to hearing aids.  My recent NHS ones do not have a delay or latency that I can detect as such, but only indirectly in that they seem to add a sort of spaciousness to the sound similar to that which one gets from digital reverberation units which also add delays (but deliberately in that case of course - that's how they work, basically by simulating room echoes and thus delays).  However I haven't come anywhere near a point where I'd think of shoving them in a drawer, but nevertheless am a bit picky as to the situations when I put them on, such as when watching TV.  Wearing them in the street verges on the intolerable owing to traffic noise etc, and even when doing the dishes I have to turn the volume down as otherwise the clashing and clattering is almost painful, not that my wife allows that as an excuse not to do it ...  However I've more or less stopped using them for music even though they have a 'music' setting, preferring instead to rely on analogue tone controls or graphic equalisers as mentioned previously on this thread.  I think one needs to give oneself a considerable learning period measured in months to find out how best they can help - and I'm sure each individual's preferences will be different.  But whatever their shortcomings, personally I wouldn't be without them.  Just my two pennies' worth.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My hearing is damaged to the point that I cannot manage at all without my hearing aids.  They go on first thing in the morning until I go to bed at night.  Yes, there are times when some sounds are unplesantly loud, such as travelling on the London Underground, but my brain is now accustomed to coping with them.  It's amazing how much the brain adapts in the first weeks of hearing aid use.  I have no need of a volume control - my ears didn't have one in the first place! 

As to delay, it is inevitable, and any sounds that reach the eardrum directly as well as through the hearing aid will cause some colouration.  It is important to have well-fitting domes to minimise the effect. 

As I have said previously, it is possible to find hearing aids with the latest technology that can either automatically or manually reject unwanted noise, but they are expensive.  However, when you need to use them for 16 hours a day, every day, it's worth it.  For those who have severe hearing difficulties, it is worth looking for a specialist independent audiologist who can tailor the hearing instrument to your needs.  Those who are concessionaires for a single supplier, or high street chains, may not be able to offer exactly what you need.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, john carter said:

 

As I have said previously, it is possible to find hearing aids with the latest technology that can either automatically or manually reject unwanted noise, but they are expensive.  However, when you need to use them for 16 hours a day, every day, it's worth it.  For those who have severe hearing difficulties, it is worth looking for a specialist independent audiologist who can tailor the hearing instrument to your needs.  Those who are concessionaires for a single supplier, or high street chains, may not be able to offer exactly what you need.

I have found the usual amplifier tone controls  -  typically around 15dB lift/cut -  to be insufficiently effective. Furthermore, they generally follow log curves and Baxandall principles which, in my situation, do not help at all; hence the pernicious graphic equaliser. But I've never noticed any "delay", except when an old film on that excellent Channel 81 on t' telly has lost its sync and wandered off.  But I have yet to find a hearing aid that is able to determine that which I wish to hear and exclude that which I do not. There is a great deal of hype attached to this subject.

Perhaps one has to make the distinction between severe hearing loss and just the need for a bit of sound reinforcement. In the latter case, I imagine the High Street chains offer an adequate level of service but I agree, for those of us more severely afflicted, the benefits to be had from the help of a qualified audiologist having sophisticated diagnostic equipment are substantial. Sadly, none of this support comes cheaply but if one needs to use aids 16 hours a day, as has been suggested, almost any price is worth the improved quality of life which they bring. For me, to be able to hear the wonders of drawing additional high-pitched ranks as one approaches the last arpeggiaic summit of the F major Toccata (540) is something beyond bliss  -  not to mention the relief of others exasperated with constant "pardons?" and "what did you say?"  However, I do take exception to mine having to be sent to Poland for their not-infrequent and invariably expensive repairs. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Colin Pykett said:

However I haven't come anywhere near a point where I'd think of shoving them in a drawer, but nevertheless am a bit picky as to the situations when I put them on, such as when watching TV.  Wearing them in the street verges on the intolerable owing to traffic noise etc, and even when doing the dishes I have to turn the volume down as otherwise the clashing and clattering is almost painful, not that my wife allows that as an excuse not to do it 

An interesting phenomenon exists whereby one can 'turn down one's own ears' physically when bombarded by loud sounds.  I'm not sure how I achieve this, though I believe it involves tensing muscles attached to the auditory ossicles which, in turn, moderates their movement when transmitting sound from the eardrum to the oval window in the cochlea.  I can't even explain how to do this, but I think it can happen involuntarily when we hear particularly loud sounds.  On the other hand, I have learnt how to do this voluntarily and I'm sure I'm not alone.

However, I also turn my hearing aids down (left ear button) if the ambient sound is generally too loud, or up (right ear button) if I can't quite hear something clearly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, John Robinson said:

 

However, I also turn my hearing aids down (left ear button) if the ambient sound is generally too loud, or up (right ear button) if I can't quite hear something clearly.

Me too. But I sometimes wonder about possible consequences of the radio signals passing from one device to the other and through the brain. However, given my age, this has to be an academic consideration and in any event, these pulses are of such short duration and low amplitude that it probably doesn't matter..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My wife's top-end hearing aids have effective limiters to prevent over-amplification of loud noises (which could damage her eardrums).  These are good enough that they do not cause problems or interfere with intelligibility in normal use, even in the music program.

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

×
×
  • Create New...