At age 56 I'd say if there has been a hearing change it's so gradual and moderate as to be undetectable in any remarkable way. Though my home listening preferences have changed over time, most notably towards the sounds of acoustic instruments, I doubt this a hearing related phenomenon.
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Chances are that if you're male or over 30 you've already experienced some degree of measurable loss in acuity (based upon what could have been measured when you were in your teens). It happens to everyone, happens earlier than anyone recognizes or admits, and that helps point out how gradual it is and how it really pretty much does not affect the vast majority of the population in any real way. For starters, you simply will not be able to hear high frequencies (16kHz and up) - and you will likely not notice it at all. Yes, some people do have hearing that good when they're young (my son has been tested and his acuity is unreal today - but like everyone else the clock is already ticking on that one) but it's a fact that either age or abuse will unconditionally lead to some level of measurable loss. Other things (tinnitus, for one) may have a much greater impact than loss of hearing 16K+. As far as enjoying audio, it really just will not matter that much.
I find that the loss of hearing in my advancing years, although real, is gradual. I don't really notice it too much other than in conversations with soft spoken people.
With respect to high frequency hearing loss, there are some interesting developments in newer digital hearing aids specifically desinged to try to compensate for this.
I think that what is going to happen is that a hearing aid is going to become one of my system's components to be matched and tweaked along with everything else.
MARKPHD has it right, a hearing aid will most likely be in your life, especially if you reach 90. AS mentioned, the high's fall off first. I've worn hearing aids for 60 years, but often listen to music without them. Yes, the digital aids can do wonders since you can program that to exactly fit your hearing curve. With the newer directional mics, further advances are being made. Curent digital aids plug into NOAH computer software and the curves can be adjusted. Hearing loss does not take away the joy of music, it goes on and on.
When I was a kid, and I mean pre-teen, I could occasionally hear the ultra sonic alarm in some stores. This huge ringing that I could comb-filter away sometimes by turning my head. This tells me hi-freqency / short wavelength.
By the time I was 20, I couldn't hear 'em to save my life.
I guess things haven't gotten any better.
Maybe, I'll take out one of those frequency stepped test discs and see where the upper limit is today. But do I want to know?
At 79, I am severely impaired hearing-wise. But, bless the
spirits, my hearing-aids are compensating for music under
live as well as "reproduced" conditions. I may not hear
the overtones of the highest order but I know when I am
listening to good vs excellent stereo systems. I even went
to Denver to listen to "the best speakers on earth" and
enjoyed the experience knowing that I had pretty good ones
myself. FYI, Avantgarde Duos driven by Lamm ML2.1 monos.
We audiophiles educate ourselves to pay attention and to
hear better, I think. My guests have blank expressions on
their faces and questions in their eyes. I dare not tell
them how much I put out for this equipment. I am convinced
that this is not "placebo" effect.
I haven't stayed current with hearing loss literature for decades, but the contention when i was studying auditory processing was that, absent noise-induced hearing loss, hearing loss with age is not expected. The evidence for this expectation was adduced from measurements among populations relatively free of noise exposure. Unfortunately, most of us are exposed to sufficient levels of noise to induce some hearing loss. The classic case is a notch around 4 kHz. Firearms are a major culprit.
Ferenc Fricsay was one of the finest conductors of the 20th century. He would have been much more famous if he had not not died at the early age of 48. His hearing spectrum was extremely limited and uneven.
Up to a certain, regular point of hear loss, your brain will compensate automatically. It's only if you become severely deaf in such a way that you cannot cope with everyday life, that problems will occur.
About 2 to 4 of every 1,000 people in the United States are "functionally deaf," though more than half became deaf relatively late in life; fewer than 1 out of every 1,000 people in the United States became deaf before 18 years of age. (source)
Actually the notch is usually between 2.7-3K which is the resonant frequency of the outer ear/canal combination. When testing anyone who had a lot of noise exposure (often military) they had that notch as the low point of their response graph. At 4/6 and 8K the response was anywhere from 10-40db better.
You make some good points but hearing loss does take away to varying degrees. I have a very close friend I fitted. He was on NPR for 35 years and has written liner notes on hundreds of classical albums. Music is his life. While I did a better job than the two or three audiologists he tried he still has good and bad days. Some days a violin E string just doesn't sound good. Many hearing impaired say this same thing.
Directional mics only improve speech in noisy places. They make music worse. They are two out of phase mics. The best way to listen to music w/aids is to use one omni mic per side and turn off all the compression etc. needed to "manage" speech. Also the new aids that have the receiver (thats what they call the speaker in hearing aid industry)in the ear canal right next to the ear drum have the best and most realistic sound and HF. HF is the hardest to reproduce and is usually where people lose the most of their hearing. Usually a hearing aid has the "receiver" send its sound through a small 1/16th of an inch in diameter tube that is anywhere from a half inch to two inches long depending on the hearing aid type.