The past five years, as I have slowed down, I have been going to lots of concerts at more "audiophile" settings with easy parking - primarily the Mesa Arts Center, Phoenix Musical Instrument Museum, and even some at a great local nonprofit jazz club The Nash. Jazz whether with or without vocals has been my very favorite music. Now I think I know why!!!!
I have known that I've had high frequency hearing loss for some time (I'm 65). Using a test disc, I can hear a 6 kHz test tone but 8 kHz although I can hear it’s much less in volume! And nothing beyond! At concerts, I too often have difficulty understanding the words! Very frustrating at times! I love fewer instruments with voices because I hear and understand the words better. Also, most days listening to music or watching tv/movies in my home theatre, I get some mild headaches, and also some tinnitus (not bells ringing, but a light to moderate whoosing sound of air that I am used to from a psychological standpoint doesn't really bother me).
I did some web sleuthing and came up with some interesting tidbits:
(article has link to click with detailed written presentation from some San Francisco audiologists)
So I decided to see an ENT doctor to have my ears cleaned (its been about 2 years since last done, a good idea periodically for audiophiles) and see their Audiologist for a hearing test & audiogram, which I did Tuesday this week. Turns out I have mild to moderate high frequency hearing loss. Keep in mind doctors and their equipment only measure to 8k and hearing aids are designed and speced only to 8k (not the full 20k of potential human hearing).
The ENT doctor told me that given my audiophile tendencies, whether a hearing aid would be a positive worthwhile improvement for me might well be subjective, and that I should meet with the Audiologist and she could provide me demo hearing aids at no cost to try.
I immediately thereafter met with the Audiologist (as opposed to a tech you probably get at Costco and some other places, an Audiologist has a Ph.D., and my Audiologist has been one for 17 years). I explained my audiophile needs and concerns in detail and my questions re whether hearing aids might help with my headaches, tinnitus, difficulty understanding some singing words primarily at live concerts, etc. She felt that hearing aids would be of help. In view of my subjective needs and hearing loss, she programmed and provided a pair of Phonak Audeo B-R hearing aids for me to try, with follow up in two weeks. She explained that she programmed them for me as a hearing aid beginner and would make some changes when she sees me again in two weeks.
Note that my Medicare will not cover the cost of hearing aids. An out-of-pocket "audiophile" expense!
My initial "observations" over using them to watch some tv shows so far, listen to 2 channel music, and attend one live concert last night - Rodney Crowell and what a concert! - are as follows:
Watching tv: Commercials are no longer way louder than the tv program, sound level is about the same! The same volume on my surround processor seems somewhat "easier"/less fatiguing? (sort of a guess as to how to describe). Other than commercials, would this be a reason to get hearing aids - questionable at this short time of use.
Listening to two channel music: Nice improvement, like moving up to a better, smoother, better high end response DAC. E.G., I can now discern brush strokes like on cymbals better than in years! Music and vocals show the better DAC improvement. A given volume level is "easier"/less fatiguing than before (when it didn't seem fatiguing at all before). So far for my two channel music alone I want the hearing aids!
Rodney Crowell concert last night: Rodney was accompanied by two othe outstanding performers, with Rodney singing alone except on a few songs.
I found the instruments to sound more vibrant, dynamic and 3D than I am used to. I could hear guitar plucks and the like more clear and better than ever. But most significant, I understood every single word, whether just Rodney singing, or all three singing! My brain didn't have to work trying to understand words sung. I didn't give up trying to understand the words. This single improvement was revelatory! And frankly, I couldn't have anticipated this "wordy" improvement, it was so "out of wordy/worldy" for me.
Now I get why jazz and vocal jazz has been my favorite music these past years. Aside from the fact that I love jazz, jazz without singing has no words to try to understand, and jazz with singing is often (not always) easier to understand words than say hard rock with more instruments and louder music!
I am so far reasonably impressed!
What about you? How old are you? Do you listen to much two channel music in your audio or home theatre system? Do you attend many live concerts and if so, in more "audiophile" settings as opposed to overly loud and boisterous rock concerts? Have you tested your high frequency hearing loss?
Following is an easy test for high frequency hearing loss to "see" if perhaps you might want to see an Audiologist (and also get your ears cleaned say every 6 months to year by an ENT doctor):