Monthly Archives: November 2014

Hearing Aids and Music

Will I Be Able to Listen to Music With My Hearing Aids?

A common concern among many hearing aid users is how amplification will affect their ability to appreciate or create music. Whether you are a professional musician, an avid concert attendee or you simply enjoy the occasional tune on the radio, you may notice that how you listen to music will be affected by amplification.

Many hearing aid users report an increased appreciation of music through their hearing devices. The reason for this is simple. Music is dependent on hearing a wide range of frequencies, and hearing loss can greatly limit which frequencies you have access to. Amplification can provide access to those specific frequencies, allowing for music to sound more like it was intended to sound. Also, hearing aids can increase loudness overall, which makes both the notes and the singing more audible.

However, keep in mind that hearing aids are designed to pick up speech, as that is arguably the most important thing we listen to throughout our day. Speech is very different than music in regards to which frequencies are emphasized. Vowels and consonants are higher in pitch than the sounds that are important for a melody, so those are the frequencies that hearing aids focus on amplifying. The loudness of the notes in music is also typically quite variable, which is another challenge for hearing aids.  Some features present in the hearing aids to maximize speech understanding can actually be detrimental to the ability to appreciate or produce a tune.

So what does that mean for you, as a current or potential hearing aid user? If music is an important part of your life, than that is something you should discuss with your audiologist when you are picking out a hearing aid. Most hearing aids have the ability to create special programs just for listening to music. These programs can give emphasis to lower frequencies and use different sound processing strategies to improve the quality of song through the hearing aids.

In a previous blog post, we wrote about what to expect from new amplification and the adjustment period that new users go through. Listening to music is no exception. Your favorite song will likely sound different through hearing aids but that is not always a bad thing. With a few programming changes from your audiologist and some patience and persistence on your part, you may notice that music sounds richer, fuller and overall better than before. To learn more about music appreciation in regards to your hearing loss or specific hearing device, make an appointment with your JHBI audiologist today.

Hyperacusis: Sensitivity to Sound

Hyperacusis: What is it?

Hyperacusis is defined as an unusual intolerance to ordinary environmental sounds. Individuals with hyperacusis usually have inappropriate responses to sounds that are not bothersome to a typical person.  This differs from loudness recruitment, in which a person with hearing loss cannot tolerate moderate to loud sounds. With loudness recruitment, loud sounds are too loud. With hyperacusis, all sounds are usually too loud. Many people with hyperacusis have normal hearing sensitivity. The disorder can occur in one or both ears, and is commonly accompanied by tinnitus.

Potential Causes of Hyperacusis

Studies show that in a majority of hyperacusis cases, there may not be an underlying medical condition. However, some conditions that have been linked to hyperacusis include:

Peripheral Central
Bell’s Palsy Migraines
Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome Depression
Stapedectomy Post-traumatic   stress disorder
Perilymph fistula Head injury
Meniere’s Disease Lyme Disease
Williams syndrome

One major cause of hyperacusis is exposure to very high levels of noise, either as a single intense exposure or a long-term exposure. Use of hearing protection devices is crucial in prevention of noise induced hearing loss and hyperacusis.

What Can Be Done?

A person’s first reaction to intolerance to sounds may be to wear ear plugs or other hearing protection devices to reduce the loudness of sounds. This strategy is usually not helpful, as the person may actually be worsening their poor intolerance to relatively normal sound levels. Wearing hearing protection may provide temporary relief to a bothersome sound, but when the device is removed, the individual may be even more sensitive to sounds than they were before.

Another approach that may be more successful in helping an individual deal with hyperacusis is called sound desensitization, which is administered by a professional. For this therapy, the individual with hyperacusis will listen to barely audible white or pink noise for a set amount of time each day. Over time, the individual will build a tolerance to the sounds, and find they are no longer sensitivity to every day sounds.

If you or a loved one is experiencing unusual intolerance to sounds, please visit an ear specialist for medical evaluation.