As the soundtrack to our lives, the right song can cause feelings and emotions from an earlier time to come flooding back. From Bruno Mars to Beethoven, the love of music spans generations, whether you’re a serious musician or someone who just likes singing along to a catchy song in the car. But what if you lost the ability to hear and enjoy your favourite music? For those with hearing aids, that can be a common issue, particularly as the hearing loss increases.
As audiologists we talk a lot about how your hearing aids are great for helping you hear speech better. Noise reduction systems, directional microphones, and feedback cancellation come standard in top-of-the-line hearing aids and help you as a hearing aid user to hear speech even in some of the noisiest environments.
But while all these features are working to help with speech, they can sometimes have a negative effect on music. The computer software inside most modern hearing aids was not made to handle music’s diverse tonal quality and wide dynamic range. Instead it focuses on cutting out certain sounds that it interprets as background noise, making loud sounds comfortable by reducing amplification levels and by trying to eliminate the feedback whistles that often resemble some musical instruments.
Most standard hearing aids start distorting with input signals from around 100dB SPL with the few exceptions continuing to around 106dB SPL. This level, although satisfactory for speech perception, is well within the crest peaks of music and causes significant degradation of sound quality.
Now one Danish manufacturer, Widex, have produced new technology which they believe can change this situation for the better. The new range of hearing instruments, called “Unique,” is specially designed to allow a significantly wider range of volume to be processed without distortion. The Unique range brings this level up to 113dB SPL.
Combining this with a music program that allows as little interaction as possible from the more advanced features in the hearing aid, this higher maximum input level allows musicians to enjoy music even in one of these sophisticated hearing aids.
The Unique range has only been on the market for few months now, but early results from our own fittings do support the manufacturers’ claims. So, if you are finding music a miss with your current aids, why not rediscover the ram in the rama lama ding dong or the ending to that unfinished symphony!