Traditional hearing aids are designed to help those with hearing loss better hear and understand the acoustic characteristics of speech — but not so much music. In honor of Jazz Appreciation Month, celebrated during April, here are some hearing tips, tricks, and accessories for enjoying music the way the musician intended.
Speech Versus Song
The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Hearing Enhancement of Gallaudet University explains the difference between speech and music: “The acoustic characteristics of music are quite different from speech, and a hearing aid that works well for speech perception may not be appropriate when listening to music. For example, the range between the softest sounds of speech (the voiceless th) and the loudest (the vowel aw) is about 30 to 35 decibels, while even the loudest speech signal rarely exceeds 85 to 90.
“In music, the range between the softest and loudest sounds is in the order of 100 decibels, with the most intense elements, such as brass instruments, measuring as high as 120 decibels. The implication of these acoustic differences is that while typical hearing aid users may be able to comprehend speech quite well if they can hear 30 to 35 decibels of the signal across a wide range of frequencies, much more of a range is required when listening to music.”
Hearing Technology Now Versus Then
Basically, hearing aids are focused on accommodating higher frequencies (for speech), while music tends toward lower frequencies. While conventional or older hearing aid processing capability is not always ideal for music, technological advancements in hearing aids bridge this gap. Some of today’s high-end hearing technologies have the capability of processing speech and music very differently, affording distortion-free, high-quality sound of music for the listener.
Different Options for Listening to Music with Hearing Aids
What to Look for in Your Hearing Aids
Most of the new technology on the market today can be adjusted for music. The adjustments include:
- Feedback-reduction systems
- Noise-reduction systems
- Low frequency ranges
- Omnidirectional microphones
Be sure to describe to your hearing care professional what kind of music you enjoy, how prevalent music is in your life, and where you’re enjoying it. That will help your provider determine which technologies offer you the most personalized listening options.
Streaming Products (Bluetooth®)
Although your hearing aids are ready to operate right out of the box once you put batteries in, there are a number of assistive technology devices that you can use in conjunction with your hearing aids. Because many of these assistive technology devices operate using Bluetooth technology, you’ll get the most out of these when you have Bluetooth hearing aids.
How the Products Work
These devices work to make your life easier. They are designed with communication and entertainment applications in mind, helping to transform your hearing aids into a personal wireless headset.
What Can I Connect to Through Streaming Devices?
The purpose of streaming products is to enhance communication in all aspects:
- Face-to-face conversation
- Watching TV
- Listening to music
- Chatting online or over the phone
There’s an App for That
There are countless apps that connect to your hearing aids, helping you do the things you want to do with ease.
Android or iPhone® Apps
Some apps connect your Made for iPhone® or Android hearing aids, turning them into customizable units with features that improve your listening experiences. These apps allow you to stream phone calls, FaceTime® audio, music, and sound from your television or computer using Bluetooth technology.
Your cell phone can also act as a remote control and microphone for your devices. The remote feature allows you to change the volume of your Bluetooth hearing aids quickly and easily, while the live microphone offers extra amplification to ensure that you don’t miss a moment of conversation. The microphone feature can also record, play back, and email audio as it happens.
Other applications allow you to remotely adjust bass and treble to make hearing in certain environments easier. They can also save those adjustments so that when you return to a specific location, your devices readjust automatically.
Wireless TV Headphones
These headphones give you a direct wireless stream from the television to your ears, therefore eliminating distracting outside noise. There is usually a volume control on the headphones that allows you to adjust the volume without affecting TV volume for other listeners. They come in two silhouettes: over-the-ear headphones and earbuds. Wireless capabilities allow you to listen from a space of your choosing without messing with cords. You may have to fend off others in your household for them because of their portability. You can hear the TV in other rooms — for example, while getting up for a drink during a commercial. Your headphones connect or pair to the TV through a radio, Bluetooth, or infrared signal. They do not work with a hearing device.
Tips for Buying:
- Device performance may differ depending on the auditory input.
- Check to see how long they hold a charge.
- See if reviewers rate/describe the headphones as “comfortable” and/or “lightweight.”
- Make sure you can listen to both the TV speakers and your headphones at the same time.
- Check to see how far your reception reaches.
- Verify the range of any streaming or Bluetooth device you are considering, and be sure you understand other operative limitations from physical barriers in the environment.
- Make certain you understand warranty and repair options.
- Be aware that some products can generate a stronger permanent magnetic field that could cause interference with other devices.
Connecting you to television, “looped” concert halls, churches, museums, and more, looping allows you to greatly reduce ambient noise and provides a better signal-to-noise ratio for auditory input via hearing aids, which act as tiny, personal audio streamers. Bypassing the need to hear the sounds in a wide-open hall removes possible technical difficulties like reverb (echoed speech) and feedback. Looping offers a hearing “shortcut,” making it easier for you to hear specific inputs in larger rooms.
Looping systems serve as wireless loudspeakers that deliver sound from a source, such as a microphone, directly to your hearing aids. The looping system works similarly to Bluetooth technology, which can be used to stream phone calls, music, and other audio from sources that are Bluetooth compatible.
Tips for Buying:
- Your technology needs to be compatible with the telecoil in your hearing devices.
- Check with your hearing health care provider for installation of a loop in your home, church, or office.
Contact us today to talk about your options. Happy listening!
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