Musicians with hearing deficits: how to manage?
  • Background: Last Wednesday I had my hearing tested by a qualified audiologist. I'm going to be getting hearing aids (one in each ear) for what was diagnostically called "mild to moderate" hearing loss.

    Caveat: I raise this question for personal reasons, but (in keeping with our policy of remembering future readers) I don't want this to degenerated into an egocentric discussion.


    1) Once a person is wearing hearing aids, is he effectively useless as an ensemble singer? If not, what can be done to lengthen his shelf-life?

    2) Once a person is wearing hearing aids, is his work as an instrumentalist or conductor effectively finished? If not, what can he do (or do others need to do) to lengthen his shelf-life?

    3) Live music (instrumental or vocal) is always preferable to recorded music, to keep the hearing acute?

    4) Does actually making (again, instrumental or vocal) music, alone or in ensembles help?

    5) In the era of live-streamed Masses and omnipresent microphones and speakers, will any of this likely interfere with the hearing device (assuming it's not a literal ear trumpet)?

    Thanked by 3CCooze Elmar CatherineS
  • In general, I think that the answer to some of your questions would rest on your ability to gauge your singing with those around you. As long as you can judge and perceive the real quality of sound coming from a choir or an instrument you should have no trouble in performing with others or directing them.

    For example, a well-known cardinal whom I know has hearing aids in both ears and because of his inability to resonate his voice in a normal way always speaks and chants quite loudly. If you can perceive and blend with normal singing you shouldn't lose out in your musical activities.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,838
    1) No he is not useless as an ensemble singer. Find a friend with good ears who will advise you on what corrections you need to make. Be humble enough to take the advice.

    2) Again, no. Some hearing losses are in specific pitch ranges. If you are in a situation like a friend whose hearing was damaged by the closeness of a loud organ mixture, don't use the mixture or have it re-voiced.

    3) Live music is good but you may be dealing with ambient sounds not present in recordings. The background noise may make it more difficult for you.

    4) Don't give up on music but learn what adaptations you can make. Again, the advice of people who want to help you is priceless.

    5) Possibly, but my father wore hearing aids for many years. Some devices could interfere and produce noises, but I think hearing aids have developed and improved since then. A good audiologist can help you adjust your aids for that.

    Best of luck with this.

  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,131
    Be careful around live mics. I singer I know had to turn his hearing aids off, because the mic caused a feedback loop.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,838
    True. We had issues because we found the sound system wasn't properly grounded. We fixed that and installed a 35 cent resistor on every speaker and all the noise stopped.

    Back in the seventies - you had to be there - I had one of the Mazda cars with a rotary engine. If I took my dad anywhere, accelerating that engine would cause a high pitched whine in his hearing aid. Fortunately, he didn't seem to hear it but I could.
  • Cordova,
    Please clarify: was the feedback loop a deafening screech in his ear, or was it audible to anyone around him?
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,131
    It was audible to everyone in the choir, the choir director and the pianist.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Yikes!

    I'll remember that, and steer as clear as I can from microphones and other evil accoutrements in modern church buildings!
  • This coming Sunday being Laetare Sunday, I've been asked to play. We'll see how the hearing aids and the speakers and the sound system interact (since we're temporarily using something other than a pipe organ.)
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CatherineS
  • When I sing with my hearing aids in, I often hear two pitches (which a friend here says may be because I'm actually hearing the same tone twice, once through my hearing aid and once inside my head, and they should be slightly different because one is passing through bone to get to the auricular center.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,239
    Curious, I get that on an A. I wonder whether the hearing aid "knows about" A.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,838
    Best of luck, Chris. Hope it goes well.
  • Here's an update.

    I've had the hearing aids for 15 months now, and have had them interfere with microphones and speakers occasionally.

    So far as I am aware, I haven't become a useless ensemble singer.

    On the other hand, I played for a wedding today on the Kimball I've mentioned hereabouts before. When I accompanied the small group of assembled singers, I used a stopped diapason, and when I played the recessional on more stops and when I improvised on Charpentier's Te Deum Processional at nearly full organ, I couldn't tell much difference in volume. There was SOME difference, but not as much as there used to be. There aren't any mixtures on this organ and few enough 4 foot stops.

    The audiologist tells me that this is perfectly normal because my "ears", as I call them, have a kind of threshold on sound. (I don't know if it's at a specific decibel level or not).