Music makes life more enjoyable. Whether it’s a live concert, in the car, or as background noise, music is a way to lift your mood, relax, meditate, and practice self-care.
As an audiologist, I have met many patients who are either musicians or enjoy music and experience hearing loss. Patients commonly express their love for music and its essential role—they want to continue enjoying music, but hearing loss poses a challenge.
This is where hearing aids come in. After all, these devices can significantly affect the quality of life of people with hearing loss. Keep scrolling and I’ll provide tips to optimize your music experience and review the best hearing aids for musicians.
In this article, get the intel on the music listening experience, plus a close look at hearing aids and their ability to process sound and music.
How Hearing Aids Work
Regarding sound processing, hearing aids amplify speech sounds and other environmental sounds.
How hearing aids work:
- The sounds are picked up by the hearing aid microphones, which send electronic signals to the processor.
- The processor appropriately enhances the signals for hearing loss and sends them to the speakers, where they are delivered to the ear canal.
- The key to hearing aids’ effectiveness is the sound processing algorithms that are built into the device.
How Hearing Aids Process Speech
The primary purpose of a hearing aid is to improve speech audibility.
What the hearing aid does with the sounds it picks up depends on two factors:
- The type of sound
- The volume of the sound
More specifically, the hearing aid distinguishes noise and speech, reducing noise while enhancing speech.
The goal of the hearing aid is to amplify soft and normal conversational speech adequately while providing minimal amplification to loud speech. Based on your audiogram, the hearing aid applies frequency-specific volume to provide the volume that you need.
How Hearing Aids Process Music
Essentially, music is approached the same as other sounds by hearing aid processing.
The hearing aid’s primary goal is to amplify speech; however, sound processing to optimize speech may conflict with optimal settings for music listening.
For example, the hearing aid behaves differently with soft than loud speech sounds (e.g., soft sounds are amplified more than loud sounds).
Music contains a wide range of volumes, a wider range of frequencies, variety of sounds and may or may not include speech or lyrics. Sounds that are typically “noise” in another setting might be a desired part of the music.
For example, the hearing aid often reduces a sudden, loud impulse noise (i.e., door slam), but that sudden volume change may be a desired part of the music you’re listening to.
Therefore, enjoying live music requires appropriate settings to preserve the fidelity of the sound. So what is an audiophile to do? Fortunately, there are plenty of options for music lovers and high fidelity sound enthusiasts.
Music Programs and Fine-Tuning
Music programs and fine-tuning can significantly improve the quality of music through hearing aids.
Are you a musician? Fine-tuning for your instrument can help improve sound quality.
Many hearing aids have music programs specifically designed to adjust the device to allow sound to come through with less distortion to the music’s sound quality.
For example, a music program disengages noise reduction programs, directional microphones, and frequency-lowering features. As music incorporates sounds that hearing aids may classify as “noise,” disengaging features, such as noise reduction, will help preserve the fidelity of the music.
To note, hearing aids are often programmed to enhance higher-frequency speech sounds. So that means depending on your instrument, the target frequency region may differ from the hearing aid’s default settings.
What The Best Products Have In Common
The best hearing aids for music share certain features and they can handle a broad range of frequencies and sound levels.
A wide dynamic range allows for a more realistic sound output. Jumping on this point, the processing speed of the hearing aid and appropriate coupling to the ear (e.g., dome tips or earmolds) are also important.
Which means that these devices have music programs that can fine-tune the hearing aid for music listening and additional customization features.
What style is best?
The most popular style of hearing aid is the RIC style. This style of hearing aid is first to market when it comes to the newest hearing aid technology.
Best Hearing Aids to Enjoy Live Music
Let’s look at some of the best hearing aids for live music in 2024.
Hearing aids can significantly affect the quality of music and sound for people with hearing loss. The key is to choose a hearing aid that meets your needs and fine-tune the music program to your preferences.
It is also essential to communicate with your hearing healthcare professional about your music needs and preferences. If you’re looking for more resources, try our Live Listen feature to hear sound quality from different hearing aid options.