Age Related Hearing problems and hearing aids

For quite awhile I had been losing interest in listening as a result of having developed a significant sensitivity to certain sounds which caused discomfort unless listening was at very low volumes. At the extreme, this condition is called hyperacusis.

Because listening at relatively low volumes is what I do anyway, this didn't seem like much of a sacrifice. However, I've spent over 50 years building, upgrading and modifying my various setups with one of the goals being the reproduction of accurate instrumental sound that, at least, approximates the volumes that would be attendant to various live venues. In my case this interest is mostly related to solo guitar music.

For many years I have used large dipole radiators including those from Acoustat, Magnepan and, for the last 25 years, Martin Logan. Sometime 13 to 15 years ago I bought the ML Odysseys which seemed to satisfy all of my listening needs. During the last several years, though, it seemed like they were not producing the detail, timbre and clarity at frequencies above 2000 Hz or so that I remembered them to be capable of, unless I used higher volume settings. The problem with this is that at these higher volumes, because of my hearing issues, resulted in a perceived brilliance that not only sounded terrible but was painful to me.

Because I didn't want this problem to be my speakers, I began looking at other potential fixes such as DAC's, interconnects, speaker wire, etc. None of these except, to some degree, addition of DAC's helped much.

After much help and advice from Audiogon members I finally broke down and purchased a pair of high end bookshelf speakers and, what a difference. I'm assuming that because of their much higher efficiency, I'm able to achieve detail and crispness at lower more comfortable volumes. I was also amazed at the magnitude and effortlessness of their bass output and was ready to keep them and find a buyer for my Odysseys.

Finally, the reason for this post....My wife finally convinced me to visit an audiologist who identified a hearing issue that warranted the use of hearing aids. For most uses, the jury is still out regarding my general satisfaction with them but, for listening to my music, the difference is huge. With them in place, the Odysseys have returned to the speakers that I originally was so impressed with. As a matter of fact, I initially thought that the higher frequencies were being exaggerated by the aids. I've concluded, though, that I was simply hearing what was really there after being reacquainted with my hearing ability of 10-20 years ago.

One of the things that I've also noticed, and it seems counterintuitive, is that, even though those frequencies that bothered me so much are being amplified, the level of discomfort associated with them is significantly reduced. For solo guitar music I still prefer listening to the bookshelves but for almost everything else, I'm keeping the electrostats.
That's a very interesting post. If you don't mind me asking, was your hearing issue only when you were listening to your system, or did you have problems listening to live music, as well?
It's surprising that the increase by the aids has resulted in 'less' discomfort. I suffer from exactly the same problem but have been reluctant to actually deal with it. I've been afraid that hearing aids would just worsen the sense of loss in that artificially compensating would simply deteriorate the quality of realism I hear regardless of the hearing issue. It may be time to pay a visit to the local audiologist, eh?
Zd545, I don't often have an opportunity to listen to live music except when the grandsons are showing off their keyboard or guitar accomplishments but, yes, live music can have similar problems, especially piano.

Csontos, I was also concerned that hearing aids would result in an artificial sound and, if one compares that sound to what I was hearing unaided, it does. However, I can't say which is the most accurate, what I hear with my ruined hearing or what I do with the hearing aids in place. I hear a greater range of frequencies when I'm wearing them so I'm thinking that accuracy favors the hearing aids.

I have no real understanding of why there is less discomfort when the apparent offending frequencies are amplified except as I originally alluded to that I am able to hear the musical detail that we all want but at a lower volume. One audiologist explained it to me but I still didn't really get it.

The newer hearing aids have pretty sophisticated circuitry which includes what amounts to a very sensitive and accurate equalizer. I had considered adding an equalizer to my system at one point, in an attempt to be able to discriminate in the same way. I may still try that because I really still am not totally happy with the idea of hearing aids.

The bottom line is that I still listen to solo guitar using the bookshelf speakers. Maybe this is because I'm still stubbornly resisting giving into the idea of accommodating this handicap. As far as the hearing aid in general goes, depending on the level of sophistication (and cost) they do much more than act simply as an amplifier and are worth looking into. Hearing aids are expensive much of which cost is due to a substantial markup so price can sometimes be negotiated but then, audio enthusiasts are used to spending money for listening improvements.
Thanks for the information. These are some of the most valuable threads on this forum. I actually think it would be nice to have a hearing impaired forum because we seem to be a shrinking breed and everyone's hearing is going to go eventually. My hearing has been bad for quite sometime and a trip to the audiologist is coming up soon.
I was reluctant to get hearing aids for many years but I finally broke down and got a pair. I couldn't hear much of the high frequencies and when I tried the hearing aids at first it just didn't sound right, so bound and determined I made three trips to the audiologist before I got the right settings. Please do yourself a favor and don't be afraid to give them a try. Listening to music now is magical and I honestly feel my ears are 30 years younger as now I am 65 years of age. I also have tinnitus and they have improve those issues to. Best of Luck
I am also 65 and my speakers, Maggie 1.7s, sound much more like I want when I cup my hands behind my ears. Often female vocals sound hazy until I make that adjustment. So, perhaps all these testimonies will give me the courage to try hearing aids. Thanks to everyone for sharing, I have never spoken of this with anyone.
I'm back with more info. I just came home after having a newer more sophisticated pair of aids fitted and adjusted to my audiogram. Because the adjustment is through a wireless connection, one can hear the effects of these adjustments as they are being performed. They even provided a remote controller which gives the wearer all kinds of manual control.

Mine have 4 selectible built in programs, one of which is for music. Please do not hesitate to look into the possibility of committing to hearing aids if you're concerned that they might sound artificial or exaggerated; done right, they are unbelievably good and it is possibly best mod I have made to date. As Needfreestuff commented, it is like getting back my 25 year old hearing and I'm 71.

No kidding, everything sounds normal, especially the detail and timbre of individual instruments and the audiologist is not even finished fine tuning them yet. The thing I wish I had known a long time ago, this being quite a substantial investment, is that most providers, at least in our area, will give a refund on returns within a 30 day trial period.
Samhar, there are probably several brands that are just as good, maybe better, available but mine are made by a company called Starkey. My research re cost is that aids are selling for between 4 and $7000.

In order to get an idea of how I would handle hearing aids, I bought a pair called Resound Pulse which originally cost close to $5000; I paid $150 for these that I found on eBay. Of course they were not adjusted to my audiograph but I, at least, was able to get some idea of what they would be like.

Anyway, since I returned home from the audiologist around 4:00 I have been reacquainting myself with music that I had not listened to much for the last several years. I'm still listening six hours later.
I have pretty limited experience so I don't know how much the same they all might be. I originally bought a new pair of very cheap aids (~$30) which do nothing but amplifiy all frequencies across the board. The second pair that I bought used (Resound Pulse) via eBay were 5 year old technology but, except for the fact that they were not adjusted to my audiogram, I started hearing detail in my music again.

I went back to the audiologist to try a pair of Starkey aids which were tuned to my hearing loss and the improvement in the enjoyment of my music was incredible. They have 4 programs designed for various venues, volume control for both ears simultaneously or individually, mute setting, etc. Each aid communicates with the other so that both can be adjusted from either ear.

Anyway, I can't answer your question with any authority but there are other considerations that one might pay attention to. Because they're expensive, look into warranty conditions. The biggest consideration for me was that I am allowed to use them fo a month with an allowable 30 day total refund if I'm not satisfied.

I don't know if mine are the best or if there is even a significant difference between brands as long as they are all current technology. I don't like the idea that I need them but, having experienced the listening quality that they provide, I'm happy to make the compromise.