High End Audio and Your hearing as you get older

I understand that your hearing decreases as you get older. Does it decrease to the point where at say, age 70, a mid-fi preamp and cd player sounds just as good as a high end preamp and cd player.

I'm 57 now, but wondering if when I'm 70, all this hi-fi stuff will sound the same as mid-fi stuff to a pair of old ears.
Absolutely Not!
J.K. Pushing 100.Let's ask him.I can guess his answer.
Perhaps eventually but the loss in presbycusis is of sensitivity (not absolute) and it is, progressively, from the very highest frequencies down. Even with increased thresholds down to 10KHz (and at 68, I ain't there yet), most of what makes music interesting and subtle is still discernible and enjoyable. Sure, the highest overtones are gone but they contribute surprisingly little except in A/B comparisons.

I'm 53 and I swear I hear better now than at 33!!Maybe it's because I've got better equipment now,who knows!!
I have to agree with Tpreaves for now.
My listening pleasure and my ability to hear most positive attributes that we describe in the sound from our better stereos makes listening an absolutely glorious experience at my age - 51.
When I hear the level that my elderly parents have to turn up the volume on their TV I do wonder.
54, I believe that the quality of one's sound system becomes more important as we get older. Our hearing, mine anyway, has become more sensitive to harsh and overly bright sounds. This is why "Sound Matters" to me. Now as we get much older and our ability to hear deminishes to the point that hearing aids are required, well, I do not wish to think about that, all bets are off.
There's a difference between "hearing" and "listening". Even though our ears may not be able to hear as well as we age, our mind is able to listen and comprehend better. It's similar to being smart vs. being wise. ;)

As for our mind and mental skills fading as we get older, well, that's another issue. :(

There's a great presentation by Evelyn Glennie at TED that addresses this issue. Even though she is deaf, she is a world class percussionist. I'll find a link and post it.
Here is the link: http://www.ted.com/talks/evelyn_glennie_shows_how_to_listen.html

Great presentation!
I have wondered if as we age, do we hear familiar things differently without realizing it? For example; do we narrow in on some frequencies such as treble sounds that we can hear, and yet because we don't hear all the harmonics that are generated from the those frequencies, hear them differently to the point that we now perceive them as brighter because they are incomplete?
I'm 81 and still buying hardware and software like there's no tomorrow (maybe there won't be). Does that answer your question? And no, I can't hear a thing over 10kHz, but it really doesn't matter to me.
I just turned 58 and have had tinitus (ringing) problems caused by influenza for about 12 years. I listen to music everyday and have learned how to listen around that frequency which occurs about 9khz. I can still hear frequencies higher than that and everything else is "clear as a bell". To address the original question, I believe the better the system at producing TRUE sound the more we enjoy it regardless of age. If Mitch4t means lower quality sound when he asks if "midfi" will sound the same as "hifi" when you get older the answer has to be no. Ballen got it exactly right. My system produces sound that sounds right to me and that sound keeps me front and center everyday. One thing everyone might benefit from is equalizing the pressure in your ears as you begin to listen to music. I am talking about what you do to lessen the external pressure on the eardrum when you fly at high altitude on an airplane by pinching your nose and blowing gently. You will experience greatly increased treble and clarity after this adjustment. Listening on clear days with high barometric pressure push in on the eardrum and prevent hearing music at it's best so equalizing the pressure allows better hearing. Want to thank everyone for their posts on this issue. Great question Mitch4t.
Unsound, I do believe we hear things differently as our hearing diminishes. The balance of the sound would almost have to change some but, with our ears and brain being more sensitive to the midrange frequencies, it may not affect our hearing as much as we might think. The brain has an amazing ability to compensate for that sort of thing.

On a related note, I have often wondered if much of us older folks' appreciation for LPs is due to the fact that we can no longer hear as many of the crackles and pops that used to irritate us in our younger days.
Yes, your hearing range and depth does change for the worst, but each person is different. One of the pluses from listening over the years is that you train your ears to hear better, so it is some compensation for the fall off in range.
Audiologist will tell you that loss of hearing is part of the aging process, but with the advances in hearing aids you will be able to capture much of what your hearing loses.
Dhohnson54, thank you for your thoughtful response. I really don't know for sure whether or not what I suggested is true or not. I suspect that it might be akin to losing one's taste (or sensation thereof) of oil in a salad, without that counter balance the ratio of vinegar would seem to be too acidic.
Your point about "older folks appreciation for LPs" is worthy of consideration. The same might be true of analog tape hiss. I would also consider the thought that "older folks" have adapted to such surface noise and acquired the ability to hear past the surface noise long ago, due to necessity. Something that younger listeners might not have been required to adapt to.
I am 62 and have tinnitus and can still enjoy my system. I agree with Tpreaves, that I can critically listen better now than 30 years ago. That is a function of experience and experiencing many systems, say at audio shows.
I do believe part of that training is listening to multiple systems, to hear how different they sound and choosing the sound you like. For example, listening to Wilson speakers just leaves me cold, I do'nt get it. There is nothing wrong with them, but they represent the antithesis of the sound I like.
I would only add and not to alarm you oldsters, but hearing decline goes way below 10khz, I would say to 6Khz, with presbycusis. No reason at all you can'nt enjoy your music.
As an aside, I live in the UK and shops here, have begun using very high frequency noise generators 20Khz+, to drive away kids who are hanging around making a nuisance of themselves. It is said to sound like mosquitos. Are they in use in the US?
DJohnson54 is right. When I started my high-end journey 29 years ago, I was 18 years old, and my mentors were in their 30s, 40s and 50s. I remember being shocked that my buddy in his early 50s could not hear the hiss and cracks on our favorite LPs. But he knew how to listen to music and appreciate the best things about recorded music, and he educated me accordingly. Another mentor told me repeatedly not to waste too much money on equipment, as the average man's hearing begins to fall off gradually at about 20 years of age (mostly high frequencies) and gets downright bad in his 50s. Interestingly, women's hearing does not start to decline until late 20s and their ability to hear well extends quite a bit later into life than the man's. These are, of course, general statements of scientific concern, and each one of us ages differently. But it used to make me smile to myself when some of the aging editors of TAS and some other publications would wax on about minute differences in equipment, and I felt rather sure that I (in my 20's)was hearing significantly more detail than they were. This point has been driven home to me so many times that I consider myself more of a music lover now than a 'sound buff.' Lessons here: Enjoy the music; trust your ears; find the system which complements your life, not controls it.
"Are they in use in the US?"

There were some businesses that were giving it a whirl but the media jumped all over it - you know, child abuse and all that. In retrospect, they were probably right to do so; between the attitude of indifference and disrespect that I see so many teens directing towards adults, it would be far too powerful a weapon in our hands.
At 56, my hearing ability has suffered as evidenced by my inability, at times, to hear someone talking directly to me in a noisy environment. But put me in front of a system and all bets are off concerning the limits of my hearing. Just like speed reading is nothing more than training the muscles of the eyes to focus on a larger portion of the page, one's hearing acuity is improved over time and with practice. We hear things about 50 milliseconds before we see things when they are less than about 10 meters from us. Our hearing developed long before our vision did all those many years ago. We react faster to sound when startled. Sensitivity to sound decreases as we age but acuity can and does improve. All it takes is a 'hint' of the sound and our brains fill in the rest.
Nonoise, I suspect that brain filling might become fatiguing, and without the regular calibration that younger folks enjoy, perhaps even unreliable. As the clip that Ballan linked suggests, that doesn't mean that our listening experience is without merit or even potential growth. It just might be different.
Not directly related, but pretty close. I heard (I think it was on NPR) recently that all folks that ride motorcycles without helmuts or hearing protection of some sort will have significant hearing loss as they age (age = more exposure). Of course, "significant" is relative. The loss is due to the wind noise & not loud mufflers...

Something I'd never considered..but not being a motorcycle rider, it's just interesting to me. If there are any riders hear..think about it..
Fess-up time:--ya,so I'm close to 73---Hey it ain't my fault I was born before some of ya'all.(Or is that 'most of--)
Within "The Wall's" "Comfortably Numb" as the guy is doing his fix/the needle's pin prick is now much harder to hear/ much harder to discern / than it was back in the '80s/ on cheap mid fi stuffs. That tells me a lot.
On the other hand when I added Tara's Zero Gold ics; that improved everything so much that I still enjoy changing for the better;along with my basic love for music/even if my hearing is less. This is a common philosophy of life in so many areas.--Or to quote Clint: A man's gotta know his limitations.--And in so doing see the glass as 1/2 full.
If ones hearing depreciates as such, then one more reason to get the good stuff now. I do feel and experience listening better if not hearing as well as I get older. Another aspect of better gear is the simple joy of owning better gear in look and feel. Enjoy it for a long as your ears will allow. Music makes life sweeter at any age.
Really, a trained ear takes years to develope. So, with age, what you may loose in Hz range, is offset by knowing what to listen for. Younger people probably dont hear "better" because they don't know how to listen yet. My hearing for detail has got so good that it becomes anoying sometimes- like I can't shut it off. Some times I wish I only had mid-fi hearing!!!
Well I guess this can all be summed up quite nicely by saying; as one gets older, one (hopefully) accumulates more wealth, which means one can buy more and better equipment.
I also have tinnitis and happened to play some test tones yesterday to learn that while I can hear a 10k tone loud and clear, I near nothing at 12.5k (the next available test tone).

This caused some amount of panic - what am I missing out on on, etc. I researched hearing aids - the open ear kinds that boost only the desired frequencies but learned that they don't work above 10k...

My ears are very sensitive to the higher frequencies now. I can't enjoy a concert without earplugs (i.e. the combo of distortion and loud volumes is very painful). I can listen to my own system loud because it's clean.

I did recently learn that in some songs I can't hear the highhats until the volume hits 82 db, then I hear them loud and clear. Weird...

I am curious to know what musical information I am missing. I suspect it's not that much, but still...
To answer Fishboat, Anyone who rides a motorcycle without a windshield, ear covering helmet, or earplugs is getting about 110-120db at 60mph. That will definitely ruin your hearing. I have heard the phrase "listening at audiophile volume levels". Does this mean super loud like 110-120db? That will definitely ruin your hearing also.
If you can still discern the difference between a live performance and recorded one, I think you have lots of fun ahead of you. It's more than just frequency response.
considering the hearing curve, are there any studies which show that at a certain age, high frequencies (??? over 7k), sound rolled off by a few db ??

maybe it pays to have one's hearing checked starting at age 70.
WoodBurger put his finger on the hearing issue. How often have you been disappointed by a well spec'd component because it didn't sound good or surprised by a component that sounded great but didn't spec well. That scenario also works on the receiving end. Your ears can been measured by an Audiologist and spec'd lower than in the past but it doesn't mean you can't hear well unless you are severely impaired.

At 54 and having served on aircraft carriers in the Navy, and owning way too many motorcycles(using ear plugs these days) my hearing is not what it used to be. I might hear less, according to my wife, but I can still hear well. I still derive great pleasure from listening to well recorded music on a quality reproduction system.
I'm a little disappointed to hear that I will sill be able to tell the difference between mid-fi and high end into my 80's. I was hoping by age 70 that I could save a bundle of dough by buying a one-box all-in-one system at Wal-Mart and still have audio bliss. Oh well, I guess audio will have to stay in my entertainment budget until I croak.
As a 50 year old motorcyclist, I would like to say that with earplugs, your hearing doesn't have to suffer. Also, a windshield very often makes the wind noise much louder, as it concentrates all the wind that would be hitting your chest onto your face.

YMMV of course, especially if you can't resist the urge to use all that horsepower ;)
Mitch4t, we can still hope that there's another period like 1950-1970, where every young male had to have a good sound system. The recent interest in vinyl is a good sign. If there's a renaissance of interest in good sound, maybe the mainstream audio industry will start competing on quality again instead of features, and Walmart WILL have decent-sounding reasonably priced systems in ten or twenty years . . . But if you're turning 70 next year, sorry, ain't gonna happen:)
I think regardless of how your hearing gradually decays over time, good equipment will sound more like live music and real instruments than poorer equipment - you still have a standard for comparison, though your range has narrowed, there remains something akin to the Absolute Sound for you, and the hearing acuity you have, to judge your equipment and recordings.
I believe I didn't explain it correctly and misled you. Its not great gaps in my hearing that my brain is filing in. That point was to illustrate a bigger level of impairment which I don't have. You are spot on with the remainder: the levels of enjoyment, though different for all, are all capable of growth and refinement.
Unsound, I think you example of the balance in salad dressing is spot on. Not to be too mystical but, to me, balance is important in most everything.

As far as others' discussion declining hearing being a problem, it has already been mentioned that there is FAR more to hearing than just frequency response - distortion, timbre, harmonic presentation, etc. As someone else mentioned, I have trouble picking out voices in a noisy environment, but put me in front of my system in a quiet room and things are wonderful. Add to this the likelihood that we all hear things differently and anything more than generalization becomes difficult if not impossible.
I think it all ties in with what Ralph from Atmasphere is always mentioning and that is the loudness queues that the ear detects and gets processed;and since I moved into the age of 51 I have noticed some change in hearing;but if the electronics get lowered I got to think you would still be able to hear a change of some type whether better or worse I am not sure of though.
I liken it to taste buds. There is no doubt that both dull with age. For a teen, macdonalds food is the height of cuisine. As you age, all of your tastes become more discriminating. So at least in my experience (age 59), I care more about both the hardware (clarity) and software (harmonic complexity). It takes more quality and flavor to give me the same kick I got from listening to beatles/stones dreck on cheap stereos when I was 19.
Beatles dreck? I still get the same kick from them, albeit on better quality gear.
On-line hearing frequency test from 8kHz to 22kHz in increments: But can you hear THIS?
Wow, now I'm going to sell all my equipment as I "can't" hear anything from 14Khz on up. But there is more to test signals than that. There has to be. I can hear instruments that play at higher frequencies on a regular basis but can't hear the friggin test tones. What's weird is that even on a low setting, the 8Khz test tone hurt my ears while the 12 Khz test tone was soft and really nothing beyond that.
I know this opens a huge can of worms but this goes a long way against the argument that only what can be measured is the sole criteria. So many flat earthers stick to their measurements with a fanaticism that borders on religion and yet I can hear things that I shouldn't.

Thanks for the TED link to Evelyn Genie. I hope to meet her one day - inspiring. I noticed they have a video with Benjamin Zander speaking about passion. Having met Benjamin several years ago I am sure that is well worth watching too.
Nonoise, are your sure?
I stand corrected. And humbly so. A quick look at some graphs clearly shows that only the pipe organ can play a fundamental frequency to about 15Khz!
Everything else barely hits 5Khz. But it's the harmonics that can extend things to beyond 16Khz. In music they always will since no one plays only test tones. Considering that, was I so far off or am I missing something?
Sorry guys, from studies I've seen males begin loosing higher frequency perception by our mid-twenties. This happens to females too but not as early. The thing is we are all different so we do not lose it at the same rate.

I'm 68 and have worn hearing aids for eight years. Even with those I can't hear above 8K Hz. Does that mean I've lost my interest and pleasure in listening to music? Not a bit. Does it mean I've had to make adjustments? Absolutely.

I certainly miss the overtones of bells and cymbals. There was a time that I could identify how many different cymbals were being played by a jazz drummer in a good recording but no longer. There was a time when I identified between two CD players while blindfolded five our of five. I doubt I could do that today. I can accept those limitations because I still find enjoyment listening to music I love.

Concerning equipment, this has made me a little more sensitive to brightness and harshness. It may be surprising given my high frequency hearing loss but flutes, trumpets, violins, etc. can be uncomfortable to listen to if the system distorts them at all. But I have a reference in continuing to attend live music concerts where these instruments do not bother me as much.

Just take a tip from Ms. Glennie, try listening with your whole person.
On another note, I came across another graph showing that hand claps, footsteps, keys jingling, cymbals, piccolos, clarinets, bass tubas and female voices all knocking on the 15Khz door. Maybe I'm just hearing part of them in recordings or not, but if one were to limit the output of a speaker to just 15Khz, wouldn't I be missing something? There are the over and under harmonic overtones, echos, and ambience.

I'm content in knowing that although I've lost an appreciable amount of my hearing compared to when I was younger, I'm enjoying this hobby a hell of lot more and learning more as well.
I came across another graph showing that hand claps, footsteps, keys jingling, cymbals, piccolos, clarinets, bass tubas and female voices all knocking on the 15Khz door.

Not quite sure if this says those sources generate frequencies close to 15kHz, but if so, there may be a typo - its more like 5kHz, and even that is a stretch.

The topmost 'C' on a piano, four octaves above middle-C, is 4186Hz. Consider: The Frequencies of Music.
Right Jtimothya, big difference between fundamentals and overtones.

Listen to a test disc such as one of those produced by Stereophile. It may be surprising how high in frequency a 2K or 4K tone sounds.
Yes, you're right. Here are the graphs and it wasn't a typo:
I'm surprised to see so many fundamentals at such a high frequency!

Anyway, to answer your question, yes, limiting freq response to 15 kHz is easily audible when your ears are young. FM stereo cuts off at that frequency, and when I was a kid it sounded dull to me. Not sure if I could hear the difference now (I no longer have a serious tuner).

I remember hearing, in elementary school, the 15.750 Hz squeal from the flyback transformer when somone turned on a TV four stories down from me. Also how wretched even the best LP's sounded to me because of the high frequency tracking distortion. I thought then that the reason it was so egregious was that so many engineers and reviewers were middle aged, and now that I'm middle aged myself, I think that I was right. We can still judge sound quality, but, obviously, only to the extent that it affects the range at which we have good sensitivity.

In that context, it's interesting to note that Toole found that people with HF frequency loss were able to accurately rank the quality of loudspeakers -- that is, the rankings didn't differ from the rankings made by those without HF loss -- but that people with sensitivity loss > 10 dB below 1 kHz were not. Their loudspeaker rankings were idiosyncratic and inconsistent. Apparently, a surprisingly high percentage of the population has hearing loss of that type.
>>> but wondering if when I'm 70, all this hi-fi stuff will sound the same as mid-fi stuff to a pair of old ears.<<<

Maybe/maybe not. I'll still use the same formula I always have: If the sound draws me in (and I can afford it) I'll buy it. Be nice if the mid-fi does it for me, I could go on more trips :-)