Hearing aid users: hearing music without distortion


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New research carried out at the University of Colorado suggests that a simpler hearing aid setting may help users to increase their enjoyment of recorded music. Naomi Croghan, a classically trained viola player and audiologist, is leading the new research aimed at evaluating the perception of recorded music by people with hearing aids. Results were published recently in the journal Ear and Hearing.

According to Croghan, hearing aid users may experience twofold effects of compression when listening to recorded music: music industry compression limiting, which reduces the range between soft and loud sounds, and hearing aid wide dynamic-range compression. This second effect means that hearing aids amplify soft sounds such as “s” and “th”, which is useful for speech recognition, but causes distortion for music. Many users apparently remove their hearing aids when listening to music because of these problems.

The study included a group of 18 experienced hearing aid users who made paired comparison preference judgments for classical and rock music samples using simulated hearing aids. The study found that participants generally preferred less processed music and lower levels of processing by the hearing aid. “Both types of compression did cause distortion,” Croghan says. “When there was too much of either kind, that was detrimental to music sound quality.”

The findings could help hearing aid manufacturers to design a setting that would process music less, Croghan says, while still amplifying all sounds. “I’m hoping we can help guide clinicians and patients to work together to find a hearing aid setting that sounds good for music,” she says. “We would love to be able to advance the technology so that it replicates music as closely as possible to what it should sound like.”

Source: CU-Boulder News; Croghan NB., et al. Music preferences with hearing aids: effects of signal properties, compression settings, and listener characteristics. Ear and Hearing. 2014 Sep-Oct;35(5):e170-84.