Sitting In

    Musical Realism and the Performance of Our (Aging) Ears

    Issue 160

    As a male of 67 years (as of this writing), I’ve recognized for some time that my ears are not the golden performers they once were. I’ve recently confirmed through formal testing that I’m suffering mild hearing loss from the upper-mid frequencies on up, no doubt helped along by rock concert attendance in my 20s and 30s, before I came to understand the permanent damage they cause, and knew to invest in quality earplugs.

    I’ve known my hearing was diminishing for a couple of years – I’ve had progressively more difficulty understanding conversations in loud environments, or in the monthly public meetings my job requires me to attend. Even television broadcasts aren’t as clear as they used to be. For some time, I’ve claimed it was a change in the way broadcasts are produced – that engineers these days deliberately push loud backgrounds and music over simultaneous speech, making it hard to understand. They bump up crowd noise during broadcast sports to make it sound more exciting, despite the fact it makes the announcers impossible to understand. I continued to think, it can’t be me; it must be them. It can’t be hearing loss, because I don’t need more volume, I just need more clarity. Turns out that was wrong, and hearing aids are now on their way.

    Why am I writing about this? First, to discuss an apparent dichotomy between our ears’ performance limits and the qualities of audio reproduction that make certain recordings sound lifelike; and second, as a means to fend off as much as possible the trepidation I feel as I make this latest transition to senior-hood, with all the ramifications that hearing aids might have for my ego and my status as an “audiophile.” Kind of like whistling past my audio grave, if you will.


    Craig Burgess.

    Craig Burgess.


    When I was cutting my hi-fi teeth in the 1970s, one of the prime performance characteristics touted by manufacturers and reviewers alike was extended frequency response. Even if a pair of young, healthy ears topped out at 16 – 18 kHz (or lower – even a pure 12 kHz tone sounded impossibly high), the consensus was that we really needed reproduction that pushed 20 kHz or beyond, in order to provide the micro-cues that our brains needed to recognize things like “air,” texture, accurate timbre, or the leading edge of transients of all kinds. So, we pursued that performance, and kidded ourselves that we really heard, or at least somehow perceived, those sounds, even though the frequency sweeps and tones of our test records made it clear we couldn’t hear anything close to them. We just assumed that those test records were labeled wrong, or the system wasn’t performing correctly, or that regardless, we possessed some kind of bat- or dog-like sense we couldn’t explain but that nevertheless responded to these signals we clearly weren’t hearing, all in order to explain the quality we found in recordings that our systems reproduced well. And by “well,” I mean with a palpable sense of realism, not simply spectacular hi-fi bombast. I mean sounds that can fool you into thinking they’re coming from a person or instrument, loud or soft, that’s there, in your presence.

    So what is it in the recording/mixing/mastering process, the manufacturing of the physical medium, or the reproduction chain (or a combination of the three) that results in these “realistic” recordings? We all possess records and CDs that have great knock-your-socks-off sound, but even among those, I would wager we each have a smaller subset of recordings that go beyond a purely impressive range of frequency and dynamics, beyond the punch of a bass drum and the sparkle of a cymbal, and that provide a genuine you-are-there quality. I suspect the path to that sound is not fully understood, at least by many, or all recordings would possess it.

    I’m coming to realize, though, that extended high-frequency response is not the answer, at least to the exclusion of other factors. Every hi-fi enthusiast that I know personally has confirmed to me that they’ve experienced the phenomenon of hearing a recording for the first time in an environment less than conducive to critical reproduction or critical listening, and still noticing the germ of quality in what they heard. It could a noisy car interior, or playback through a mobile phone or a small, tinny Bluetooth speaker. Regardless, something catches our ear/brain and makes us think, “this one is worth listening to at home, on the nice system. I bet it sounds great.” I’m sure that has happened to most of you. So, what are those auditory cues that produce that reaction? I suspect they’re unrelated to extended high-frequency response, since those systems and environments are surely missing (or masking) that information, just as they’re assuredly limiting dynamic range and a host of other qualities we think of as critical to high-fidelity music reproduction. But something is there, something perceptible, that hints at genuinely realistic sound quality if given the right playback circumstances.

    Which brings me back to where I started. Since my hearing loss is limited to a specific band of higher frequencies, this gives me some hope that the world of high-quality, realistic music reproduction isn’t being closed off to me completely by the fact that I’ll be using hearing aids soon. It suggests to me that the audio qualities I treasure in listening may lie outside that limited set of performance characteristics. Otherwise, I’d find my system provides progressively worse performance as I get older, but in fact it doesn’t. As it stands now, it’s producing the finest sound I’ve ever heard from it during its evolution of the past 45 or so  years. There are questions remaining, to be sure – will I be able to enjoy the system just as well once I’ve started using the devices and are accustomed to them, or will I discover I need to remove them when listening to music? Will my brain treat them like eyeglasses, where initial optical distortions are eventually compensated for by the brain? All those questions will be answered in time. Whether my audiophile cred or my ego will take irredeemable hits are different matters. We’ll see about those.

    I’d love to hear others’ thoughts about what makes for a realistic recording, and if you wear them, stories about audiophile life with hearing aids.

    About the Author

    Craig Burgess is a registered architect who is currently appointed Building Commissioner of the State of Indiana. His love of music dates back to grade school band, in which he played cornet; he later moved on to bluegrass banjo, acoustic guitar and piano. His love of hi-fi began in high school, and it was kicked into high gear while in college, when he discovered The Absolute Sound and the high end.

    Header image: hearing aids, from the Lively website.

    38 comments on “Musical Realism and the Performance of Our (Aging) Ears”

    1. Thanks for the discussion and your openness to adress issues like this one, which is not a big theme in audio forums. Other than discussing it with a (maybe biased) hearing aid acoustician or your doc, there is not much chance to share in-depth personal experience. Reaching 62 this year, I can already acknowledge your findings starting from the last 20y onwards, as a still excited listening audiophile (no permanent tinnitus, but some minor stress caused “inner-ear-infarct” residue on one ear).

      Two things I like to add here from my personal experience and maybe to the benefit of others:

      – If ever experiencing a sudden significant hearing loss or strong tinnitus on one ear, go to the doctor as fast as you can (few hours matter). My doc saved the other ear´s performance when this happenend to me recently out of the blue by strong daily (3d) injections of Cortisone to swell down the affected inner ear regions for better blood flow and therefore tissue protection and self-healing, as he explained. It worked perfect, no subjective sustaining impact and much better audiogram results afterwards.

      – Subjectice and non-reproducible felt changes in listening quality (mainly dull and distorted impression) can be impressingly influenced in my case by once pressing air into the sinuses (keeping mouth & nose shut) and then opening the mouth as wide as possible to help to release any overpressure left. Again, subjectively, this raises my overall ear sensitivity by felt 3-6dB, lowers the distortion level and improves high frequency recognition. My explanation for the effect is a temporary reduction of eardrum and ossicle thixotropy, i.e. causing enhanced flexibility (if you try, do it stepwise and with caution!).

      1. Thanks for reading, and for posting your comments. Chronic tinnitus is an issue I’m thankful I don’t have to deal with, though I do experience brief periods of it occasionally in each ear, at infrequent and apparently random intervals, without regard to any external stimuli. That’s happened for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always assumed it was common among the general population. They never last more than a few moments.

        I have experienced, however, another disturbing issue with my right ear that I’ve discussed with my physician, and which I may get into (along with my hearing aid experience so far) if a follow-up essay is warranted.

    2. I have been wearing hearing aids for about four years now. I’m 66 years old. Tinnitus is my constant companion with hearing loss brought on by concerts and headphones and stereos, exposure to the brass in high school in a small band practice room, proximity to a loud saw doing thousands of joint replacements, and ?genetics. I do believe two people can attend the same concert and experience differences in hearing damage.

      I now wear 9dB custom Etymotic musician’s earplugs during surgery as loud noises are annoying bordering on painful.

      I have a music setting on my hearing aids that only bumps up the highest frequencies and does not affect the broader spectrum. Overall this works well. Without this setting I cannot hear the single triangle note in Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die!

      A few more things…

      I have had to forgive myself for my part in the hearing loss, it’s a permanent disability that has taken away part of my enjoyment permanently.

      I do not remove my hearing aids when listening to music. I do not typically use headphones.

      I still enjoy listening to music. Believe me, when hearing is diminished, listening to poorly reproduced music is unenjoyable.

      I wear maximum occlusive inserts in my hearing aids for concerts, helping me to feel immune to further damage.

      Get a hearing eval with an audiologist and listen to their recommendations. Your ears and your spouse will thank you!


      PS (no pun intended..) Thanks for posting this article!

      1. Thanks for the note. The saw associated with joint replacements caught my eye. My wife just had her hip replaced 2 weeks ago, and I have to admit the problems of the auditory environment of the surgery suite never occurred to me. It certainly should have, being a sometimes-woodworker. I’ve been careful enough to use hearing protection while running saws, routers, sanders, planers and jointers, but I admit to getting lazy on occasion when it comes to cleaning up with a shop vac. Shame on me.

        The protective plugs I allude to in my essay are also Etymotics, but I stopped short of custom-molded units, opting instead for the much less expensive 3-tiered silicone “umbrella” type that the company claims reduces damaging levels of certain frequencies while allowing the music (and conversation) to still be enjoyed. They’re not ideal, but they’re an improvement.

    3. I’m curious … do folks have recommendations for “quality earplugs” for use at concerts? At 54 I still go to a lot of live music, and recognize I’m flirting with disaster by not wearing any ear protection. But at the same time, I don’t want to sacrifice the quality of the sound I’ve paid to hear. It’s hard to believe some products’ claims of completely flat frequency response. Anyone have specific experience to share?

      1. I (with a nod to orthobiz) recommend Etymotic MusicPro. I’ve used the Etymotic ER-4 MicroPro headphones for more 20 years and MusicPro and GunSport Pro from time-to-time. A couple of observations: first, Etymotic products block the entire ear canal (unlike, say, Receiver-In-Canal hearing aids) and some will find this disconcerting; and second, Etymotic might seem pricey when compared with competing products but the Etymotic products are superbly designed, engineered and manufactured (not unlike those of PS Audio!).

      2. I have custom-molded earplugs from Etymotic Research. They allow you to plug in attenuation filters of various dB of attenuation. They work really well for me and have a minimal effect on the overall tonal balance.

    4. Something that isn’t mentioned, can we adjust an equalizer to compensate for the higher frequencies after a hearing test. Would there be any drawbacks?

      1. It would be an interesting experiment, assuming you’ve had a reasonably accurate hearing loss assessment done, and you have an equalizer capable of targeting those frequencies. A lot of audiophiles have turned up their noses at equalizers over the years, but I have to say, the recent offerings from Schiit look attractive, and have received some good press in the audio journals. At least two of their three current models are even priced attractively enough to make the test relatively painless. Thanks for reading.

    5. Craig
      Do not go gentle into that good night, our twilight years that is. I am 69 years old and like you listened to loud music in my teens, played in 2 rock bands, flew jets in the Air Force, and have accumulated enough hearing damage to lose much of my HF hearing. But my $6,000 hearing aids are a miracle. I no longer think twice about whether I am hearing every frequency knowing, like you, nothing above 10K Hz matters but probably has some effect on octaves below that we perceive as “presence” or “sound stage”. In any event there is life beyond hearing loss; we have been there, and it is good! Oh yes, these Bluetooth hearing aids are my ever-present headphones that don’t have much in low frequency performance, but luckily, my LF hearing is still near perfect and blends into the perceived sound nicely.

      1. Thanks for the encouragement. My aids are much less expensive than yours, and so far I’m finding their performance and usefulness to purpose is somewhat limited. The question for me remains whether I could realistically expect improvements in those areas I find lacking, and whether those improvements would be commensurate with the additional expense. Kind of the typical hi-fi question, isn’t it?

    6. I’m in the same club with you! I just turned 70 but have known for years that my hearing wasn’t what it used to be. I remember going on a date in high school to a live band in our school’s cafeteria (not the best acoustics!) and the girl wanted to dance as close to the stage as possible – right near the speakers! When we got in my car to leave I could not hear the engine running in the car and said to myself “I’m gonna pay for this stupidity later in life”.

      When I was young I could hear the 15 KHz horizontal oscillator in a TV set (the old analog type) and sometimes could hear the near-ultrasonic sound of motion detectors in department stores. I doubt I could ever hear 20 KHz after my teen years.

      The sad thing is I could never afford really nice audio equipment when I was young when my ears could hear those high frequencies and now that I have much better equipment I can’t hear all my system has to offer. But I have noticed wearing a good pair of headphones (Audio-Technica ATH-M50x) sure does make a huge difference over listening with speakers. And I don’t even have to use an equalizer to boost the highs.

      I’ve also got tinnitus which is really bad on some days and not that noticeable on other days. It’s like a thousand cicadas or crickets constantly making noise which masks out the higher frequencies making matter worse. My wife has a low frequency tinnitus problem so she can’t hear the lows because of her tinnitus.

      I too have wondered if TV shows are deliberately drowning out the speech of actors with the background “music” level set too high. They should have an option to attenuate or eliminate the background music in TV shows.

      Somehow we managed to make it thru to old age in spite of loud music, riding bikes without a helmet, rode in cars without seat belts, lead paint, asbestos insulation, and in my case (being a science nerd) played with mercury in my bare hands, radium painted clocks and watches, and high voltage neon light transformers.

      1. While I never sat, stood or danced directly in front of a PA array, I have vivid memories of walking back to the dorm following a Doobie Brothers concert, or Stills’ Manassas tour, and having an “ears-full-of-cotton” sensation that would last well into the following day. It was kind of a badge of pride. Back then, no one talked much about the permanent damage that kind of exposure caused, certainly not among my circle of friends and acquaintances. Considering the chronology of the onset of loud rock music, the advent of jet engines, and the wide accessibility of air travel, I think a good case could be made for our generation being the first to present with these symptoms on a fairly massive scale.

      2. WD4OWA: I’ll cop to most of those, & my callsign is a couple years older than yours!

        I usually “forgot” to bring earplugs to concerts. I did use them sometimes when recording friends’ bands in tiny spaces, that’s probably 0.001% or less of my total exposure. I did try not to overdo it with the headphones. Ironically I stopped being able to hear TV flybacks just when CRTs suddenly vanished. Couldn’t give away our 300 lb. non-HDMI 1080p set, I still think it did color better but I digress.

        Some PAs have peaks around 7-10 kHz. That became painful in my 30s. That also seems to be where most of my tinnitus ended up. First noticed it as a reaction to certain meds, including aspirin. Eventually it became constant, though its apparent loudness varies. Fortunately, sensibly loud music doesn’t aggravate it. That would be hell.

        Oh yeah, those motion detectors: in my 20s I could walk into, say, Macy’s, close my eyes, tilt my head & point to the ceiling; almost always there was a little dome or cylinder thing. They never “sounded” like “tones” at all, more like pressure on the sides of my head.

        Never understood why they left them on when the store was open.

    7. I started protecting my hearing way too late. I should get a good assessment done. My preliminary self testing says I’m deaf above D8. I also have tinnitus. In my case, it was probably all the hours I spent on the firing line, even with protection.

      As for concerts these days, I leave the custom plugs at home and take along a pair of Fender plugs, available at many music stores. They’re comfortable and won’t break the bank if I lose one.

    8. Unfortunately when we place a hearing aid in one’s ear we are not taking away the impaired sensory mechanism. Thus we are feeding a system that is damaged and is no longer the biological amplifier it was prior to insult. Thus the damaged ear manages loudness and pitch differently than the normal hearing ear. Post injury to the ear we have changes in loudness growth so a loss of e.g. 40 dB is not remediated by increasing the gain by the same numerical value. Hypersensitivity may occur as well thus changing loudness tolerance.
      Pitch disparity may also occur.
      And then there is tinnitus
      The device we use to help with hearing loss is properly named it’s a “Hearing Aid” not a remediation!

      I have had traumatically induced hearing loss and tinnitus since age
      25. The hearing loss is at 3-6kHz and fortunately has not changed in 50 years. I have always enjoyed music and especially use my “music time “
      As a tinnitus masker. I have gone “hi end gear “ forever and still recall my Quad ESL 57s etc etc.
      It’s been fun.

      1. Excellent points, and I’m sure the reason why all hearing aid providers I’ve seen are careful to state their product does not restore natural hearing.

    9. I am in the same boat as many of you above: significant loss in the high and high-mid ranges. I’ve had hearing aids for about 10 years (Resound devices recommended in the only article/review in the high-end audio press I have come across, from many years ago). Depending on the quality of the work of the audiologist, they work well, but that’s my point: the quality of the audiologist’s work is paramount.

      Find someone who listens well (how ironic is that), is committed to arriving at a result that satisfies you and not just their lab devices, and understands the concerns of people for whom a high degree of fidelity to the timbre of recorded instruments/sounds is both very evident and very important.

      This is not as easy a task as I initially thought it would be.

    10. Hi Craig, I really appreciated your article since it strikes close to home. I’m 73 with a steep decline in everything above 3k, mostly over the last 12 months. The prospect of a great rig assembled over many years gathering dust is hard to deal with. So I’ll follow the hearing aid route like so many of my friends. Does anyone offer a hearing aid for audiophiles that is more than an equalizer?

      1. Al, I wouldn’t consign your system to the storage closet just yet if I were you. If my and others’ cases are anything to go by, the perceived quality of our systems doesn’t necessarily diminish with typical age- and exposure-related high frequency loss. That’s one of the points I was trying to make in my essay – that there must be other characteristics just as or more important to quality sound reproduction than simple frequency response, or else I and many others would find our systems progressively less satisfying to hear. Since I don’t know what those performance characteristics are, I’d hoped the essay might trigger some discussion of that part of the equation, but the hearing loss side of it seems to have struck a nerve, no pun intended. Granted, there are many other types of hearing maladies that might make a system sound unpleasant or even unlistenable, and of course, there’s the question of outright deafness in one or both ears, something I hope never to have to deal with.

        1. Hi Craig: Excellent post.

          (RE: ” ….that there must be other characteristics just as or more important to quality sound reproduction than simple frequency response, or else I and many others would find our systems progressively less satisfying to hear. “)

          Indeed, high-frequency extension is a desirable objective for audio/music recordings and playback equipment. Over the course of the past 50-years, there’s been considerable attention (and talk) focused on HF extension/linearity from recordings, amplification and loudspeakers –and for good reason. And yet, or as a result of, hardly any attention paid to low-frequency ‘performance’. In recent years, a few hi-fi amplifier desiners have sought lower and lower low-frequency circuit specifications: – 3db. @ 0.5 Hz or even far lower. I believe such manufacturer’s/engineer’s have discovered how incredibly important LF extension and linearity is to sound quality –throughout the audible spectrum.

          Further evidence of ‘low-frequency performance’ (extenson/linearity) upon perceived sound quality (clarity) can be observed from both reviewers and listener’s impressions when even a ‘full-range’ loudspeaker is augmented with a high-performance ‘subwoofer’.
          It appears that the 10-30/40 Hz. range of reproduction is just -if not more- important in experiencing exceptional sound quality clarity and defintion throughout the mid and high frequency spectrum; every music instrument from bass guitar, vocals to ‘triangles’ appears to gain in clarity and definition.

          How can that be? But it is routinely observed by those who experience extended, accurate low-frequency loudspeaker/subwoofer performance.

          Although my response here still falls within ‘frequency response’, it’s at the low-end of the music frequency spectrum that I believe must be further researched (or even understood) in the role it plays in defining sound ‘clarity’ to well beyond the vocal range.


    11. Hi Al, I’m 74 with the same problem as you, a steep slope downward starting at 3k. I’ve been wearing hearing aids for 10 years starting with Siemens but the last 2 pair from Resound (RIE or receiver in the ear). Hearing aids in general only try to amplify frequencies up to 8k some to 10k. They have definitely put the joy of listening back in my life. I’ve read good things about Widex and Oticon, especially Widex for their music program. Most hearing aids have separate programming for different environments. I still have a hard time hearing cymbals but most everything else comes through very well. Don’t give up on this great hobbie my friend!

    12. I’m different. Until three months ago my 79 year old ears were fairly golden.
      Then I got struck with sudden sensory neural deafness in one ear. Unknown cause. Similar to how you feel when swimming water is trapped in the ear.

      Audiometry showed sharp drop off from 500hz in that ear. But the other still golden-ish upto 6k

      It is that good ear that gives me pretty good musical satisfaction. Strange.
      The tonality of human voice is different.
      But what I still get is the deep bass (more important than many realize).
      And I still get dynamics from My three-ways.

      My hypothesis is that I am satisfied by still getting two out of the Golden Three (tone, extension and dynamics)

      Headphones: other one-eared audiophiles tell me that I’ll still get satisfaction. Strange. Thank you my brain.

    13. Craig,
      Thanks for a revealing and provocative column. My hearing ills are currently “limited” to not being able to hear soft speech in noisy environments (bars, restaurants and the like) and Tinnitus, which I’ve had for some 25 years. Fortunately music still sounds bright and enticing on my system.
      I do find when watching British TV shows on PBS that I turn up the volume—complaining to my wife as I do so, that those darn Brits mumble and make lousy recordings. Now my mom was a Brit and I lived there for several years, so it ain’t the accents that challenge me, it’s their swallowing of sounds!
      I do find my self cringing when I’m forced to listen to a system that has a compressed tonal range and a compressed dynamic range—they sound so shrill and tinny.
      All the more reason to have invested in and enjoying a quality system. Snobbery does have it’s rewards!

      1. Thanks for the note, Nick. I had intended this originally as a forum post, but by the time I was done with it, I thought it might be better placed here, and Frank was very gracious in accommodating me.

        I have issues with British shows and films, too, but for me it’s just as often a language thing, especially if there are any Gaelic dialects to decipher. But hearing loss, however slight, has certainly not helped the situation.

    14. I’ve been a music lover and audio hobbyist all my adult life. I’ve also worn hearing aids for the past 20 years. From that experience a couple of bits of advice.

      Hearing loss correction is complex and a more difficult process than being fitted for eye glasses. Go to a professional audiologist rather than ordering online or visiting a discount “audio specialist”. Proper fitting will address much more than simply boosting a given frequency.

      Enter the process committed to patience. Hearing aid manufacturers have made good advancements with speech. Music is a different matter, if that is important to you. Don’t expect proper adjustments will be made for music in a single fitting. Most digital hearing aids allow multiple programs for different hearing situations. Three common ones would be 1) normal conversations, 2) conversations in noisy environments such as restaurants, and 3) music listening. I’ve had to return to the audiologist a few times for “fine tuning” the music setting to experience natural sounding musical tonalities.

      Believe me, this can be worthwhile.

      1. All things I’ll keep in mind as I continue on this journey. The units I got have some artifacts, to be sure, but how I approach them and ultimately deal with them remains to be seen. I have some time still before I have to decide whether I keep them or not.

    15. Thanks for an interesting read.
      65yo male, worked in a high noise environment for 35 years (an oil refinery, 1980-2015) and 90% of the time used the earmuffs and ear plugs provided.
      Nevertheless, I have some hearing loss but always measured better than my co-workers when we were tested at work who never bothered with hearing protection as much as I did.
      I’ve been riding motorbikes for over 50 years and have religiously worn ear plugs for the last 25 years. For the last 7 years they have been custom made, moulded to the shape of my ear canal.
      One thing I have noticed is that the level of “ringing” can be changed with some jaw movements and also neck exercises.
      Some might scoff at this but there are a lot of moving parts and joints around your ears and they do wear and become mis-aligned. What have you got to lose with some experimenting?
      Also, altitude changes that make you want to “pop” your ears can result in some ringing.
      I read an interesting article a few weeks ago on the link between pharmaceutical drug use and tinnitus. I can’t find the article but suggest typing “prescription drugs and tinnitus” in your preferred search box and having a look.

      1. Thanks for the comments. It sounds like you’ve been more conscientious than most. Speaking of noisy environments, I haven’t even mowed the lawn without ear protection for almost a decade (even with my recently acquired electric mower, the noise of which I liken to standing directly under a large whole-house fan turned on high). But that doesn’t undo the damage from the 40 years of mowing when I never bothered.

        1. That’s a great find, Jack!
          Very comprehensive and if one is taking a drug that is not on that list, it must be a pretty exotic drug.
          As it states, not every drug will cause tinnitus in every person, every time but given that some of the more mundane, everyday drugs are on that list it is highly likely that some of the readers are taking one or more of them and that it could be causing some of the symptoms they are experiencing.
          I just hope they read the comments section of this article.

    16. I’ve been using Oticon hearing aides that have a music setting for many years. The music setting corrects my hearing to flat response across the entire range the hearing aides operate in (100-9000 Hz). The music setting is terrible for anything other than music, since for speech you don’t want the high frequencies. I had bilateral loss from loud music, but in my early forties I also had an infection that caused very bad loss in one ear. Since then I’ve used these hearing aides.
      I can hear the effect of component and even tube changes in my system. I can easily hear the difference between quality recordings and not-so quality.
      Be sure that your audiologist understands the kind of critical listening you want to do. Hearing aides for most non-audiophiles just need to focus on speech, but that will not include much above 4000 Hz, so your hearing aides need to have a special setting for music, or be adjusted for music with a secondary setting. My audiologist also made a special music setting for headphones because I was getting feedback in a narrow frequency spectrum when I used headphones. So we EQed the music setting to eliminate the feedback. I took my headphones with me to the audiologist so we could isolate the feedback frequency.

    17. Thank you Craig for this article and all of you that have responded. I am just about to turn 65. My hearing is just getting to the point where loud environments make conversation something I have to pay attention to. Occasional tinnitus (light crickets and cicadas) not too annoying at this time. 42 years in the helicopter business (flight and manufacturing), even more with guns and motorcycles. Thankfully, early years in the military (Air force) got me into the hearing protection habit. Reading this has giving me good questions to keep in mind when I get ready for hearing aids (soon). Thanks again!

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