Hearing aids and high end audio

September 8, 2017
 by Paul McGowan

4 comments on “Hearing aids and high end audio”

  1. When Edgar Villchur of Acoustic Research sold his company to Teledyne, he went into the hearing aid business. I always wondered how many of his new customers were victims of abusing his products as his old customers.

    OSHA says that exposure to 86 dba or more for 15 minutes continuously is unsafe and can result in permanent hearing loss. OSHA requires that an employer provide hearing protection for any job that exposes workers in the US to this level of sound or higher. Hearing loss is an occupational hazard for some musicians and not just for electronically amplified music but for orchestra conductors as well. In Germany a symphony orchestra (I think it may have been the Berlin Philharmonic) refused to rehearse a certain composition because they said it was too loud.

    Hearing loss can result from many causes but age is not necessarily one of them. Several decades ago I saw a TV program about a tribe in Africa when that was still a very quiet place where hearing acuity among people in their 70s was just as good as it was for teenagers. Genetics, disease, injury, are some possible causes of hearing loss. So is exposure to loud noise.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement. At 69 years old, my high and middle frequencies started dropping off to the point that I had to get hearing aids. I'm miss the sound of rim taps on cymbals and stuff like that. My stereo system still produces those sounds but I can no longer hear them. The good thing is that with my aids, I can hear and understand what my daughters are saying.

  3. Agree and disagree.
    Another way to say it is that "Music" is a CORTICAL processing function: interpretation and reconstruction of auditory (8th Nerve) input. It is not uncommon for a hearing aid NOT to help in the face of cortical dysfunction. And that despite impaired input, the cortex can reconstruct music given cues and training, just as a D-to-A converter can reconstruct a waveform from the 1's and 0's. Similarly, senile anosmia, when not nutritional (zinc deficiency) can be an early sign of dementia (cortical processing dysfunction).
    What I disagree with is the utility of hearing aids in listening to music.
    I asked a respected audiologist as Mass Eye and Ear to equalize my hearing aids so that I would hear music "normally". It was terrible. The A to D chip does not have the rise time or overhead to reproduce a musical signal and it clips.
    And I have a $5000 pair of hearing aids (Phonek). He told me to take out my hearing aids when listening critically to music, and I do. And I can still hear the second trumpet 'clam' a note.
    Of course, I do crank up the volume.
    AS my hearing gets worse, and it will, I will have to resort to headphones.
    By the way: I relate my hearing loss to a cannon shot at sunset at Morro castle in Havana a few years ago, and riding on the Boston subway to and from work for 7 years.

    1. I've often thought it would be interesting if a manufacturer...say, Sony...were to take one of their high end digital personal listening devices (PHA3, $1000) and incorporate stereo microphone inputs at the analog amplification stage. A tiny pair of microphones, such as used in cameras and camcorders, could be clipped to the bows of eyeglasses. Your high-end headphone of choice could be used with the personal listening device. This would give you high-resolution audio with a flat frequency response with control of the volume without the annoying digital "correction" of typically even more expensive hearing aids. The new government law that permits non-prescription hearing assist devices that allows affordable, over-the-counter sale of such devices is a step in this same direction. We just need to encourage hi-res manufacturers to take it to the next level for critical listeners such as audiophiles and spies.

      BTW, one of the "wonder drugs" that was given to young Baby Boomers with ear aches after WW II was subsequently determined to cause high frequency hearing loss.

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