The benefits of playing a musical instrument are well documented. Being a musician is, simply put, good for your brain. Musical training changes brain structure and function–all for the better. It improves long-term memory and increases mental alertness. It also can help with sensory response and research has shown that musicians often have faster auditory, tactile, and audio-tactile reaction times.
The loss of one of our senses can be a disorienting and jarring experience, made significantly worse when it threatens one of our passions, like music. When a musician starts to experience hearing loss, they will feel that it threatens their musical capabilities and their ability to learn. Pianists may feel these effects more acutely, due to the wide range of notes and the range of soft touches that piano playing requires.
Hearing loss and playing an instrument
Musicians experiencing hearing loss don’t have to feel like they are facing the end of their musical career. In fact, if you have hearing loss and are a musician, you are actually better at detecting sounds against noisy backgrounds than non-musicians. Noisy backgrounds are often where those with hearing loss struggle the most, but a study found that those with hearing loss that play instruments are better at detecting, processing, and remembering sounds than those who don’t.
Having instruments that have the widest dynamic range is key for microphones and for producing the richest, most interesting sound profile for music. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the best for hearing aids. Hearing aids don’t utilize the entire range of sound and are usually built to work best with the limited range of sound used for talking. This means that music can end up distorted and unpleasant–not an ideal situation for a pianist.
Musicians and hearing aids
The world of hearing aids has expanded vastly for those struggling with hearing loss, but that doesn’t mean that every type of hearing aid works for musicians. The issue lies with music being a much more intense speech input than a hearing aid wearer’s own voice. Even quiet music can exceed 95 dBA, while speech usually hits around 40-70 DBA. This can cause distortion to happen that negatively affects musicians’ experience when they’re playing or performing.
The hearing aid industry has responded by introducing a new approach where the A/D converter dynamic range has been elevated to an input range that is more appropriate for music. This allows the input voltage to be doubled, which extends the top range of A/D conversion to up to 113 dB SPL, which is much more suitable for most forms of music.
Choosing the right hearing aids
As a musician, it’s essential to find the perfect hearing aid for your lifestyle. Your hearing aid should complement the way you live your life and not take away from it. That being said, if you play an instrument you should do all you can to protect your hearing. Take breaks while practising or between sets to give your ears a rest, and wear earplugs if needed to shield your eardrums from damaging noise levels. You can stay connected to your world with Miracle-Ear hearing aids, which utilize the latest technology and work with you to find the perfect hearing aid for your lifestyle.