Singing & Hearing Aids

When I starting wearing Phonak Audeo IX hearing aids four years ago, I was singing at New York City Opera, having weathered the previous season without them, and with loud invasive tinnitus ringing in my head (see my post on surviving tinnitus here). Of course, that was a trip. I was lucky however. After my sudden onset (ok, not so lucky), I only went a year before I started wearing them. I didn't wait too long: I didn't let my ear muscles go to hell. 

If you've been reading this blog, you have some idea now that listening and singing is an active process. The ear and the voice are indivisible. If the ear cannot hear certain frequencies very well, they won't come out of the larynx. This is, of course, the first law of Tomatis. As such, the two muscles of the ear—the tensor tympani and the stapedius—work in such a way as to be rudders in a sea of sound. They have the ability to zoom in on sound as well as ignore it. This is why the constant drip of a faucet can drive you nuts, and you can also sit in a noisy cafe, lost in a good book, oblivious to everything around you. The ear—like the eye—can focus or defocus.

I thought of this matter of the eye and ear focusing when I was at the Y the other day for a swim. Sometimes I wear my contact lenses and sometimes I don't. When I wear glasses, I leave them in my locker when I go to the pool.  I am near-sided, so everything is a blur without correction. Without it, I don't interact with people very much, nor do I give the life guard my usual "thank you" wave when I leave. Why? I'm too busy trying not to stumble, my head being glued to the floor in front of me. And that's how it is with hearing. Hearing loss changes the way you interact with the world.

What does hearing loss do? It deprives the ear muscles of stimulation. Thus deprived, the muscles lose their ability to navigate the aforementioned sea of sound. What do hearing aids do? Stimulate the ear muscles. Do you see where I am going here? Most people don't know they have a listening problem until their ear muscles can't do their job very well, until "straining to hear" becomes the new normal. When that happens? Denial is often the first response.

"No. This can't be happening. If I do nothing, perhaps it will get better. Maybe I just need more sleep." But it doesn't get better. Bargaining enters the picture, be it with God or simply waiting for a bargain (believe me: good hearing aids aren't cheap), which can waste years, even decades. "It's not that bad. My grandmother had hearing loss and she did ok!" Sure. She did great. She stopped talking on the phone, going to church, and became withdrawn.

By the time most people obtain hearing aids (only 1 out of 7 people who need them wear them), their ear muscles can't do their job very well. Getting hearing aids after all that time? It's like having to run 5 miles, do 50 pushups and 20 pullups after not going to the gym for a decade. The ear is out of shape. Everything is too loud: words are jumbled, background noise is a problem, music sounds like noise, the whole thing is damn annoying.

I didn't have any of these problems. However, I would have done things differently. I would have gotten hearing aids right away instead of waiting a year. As it is, my ENT told me that my hearing loss—which is minor—didn't exactly warrant them. It was just above the borderline. He told me that I might consider it if communication became a problem. The day my husband informed me that my speech was sounding a little funny? A little garbled? That did it. I knew what that meant having been to the Listening Centre in Toronto: I knew that the muscles in my ear were starting to "slip." Of course, I also wanted to find a way to treat my tinnitus. While my hearing aids didn't help with that, my speech snapped back into place immediately after I put my hearing aids in. Why? The aids helped me hear through the cascade of ringing I heard in my head, which had a masking effect on my listening ability.

Here's the thing: even with hearing loss, the muscles of the ear can still learn to do their job. They need stimulation to do that. Back to my gym analogy. Say you lift weights, but when you do your pull-ups, you only go half-way up. Of course, your "lats" will never get any bigger or more defined. Why? Your muscles aren't fully contracting. This is not unlike how the muscles in the ear work. Without stimulation, they can't contract. What leads them to contract fully? High frequencies. What are the first sounds to go with age? High frequencies. What do my Phonak hearing aids do? Amplify high frequencies up to 8000 Hz, which is where my tinnitus is loudest. Tomatis talked about "flabby'"muscles of the ear. I believe he was onto something.

Now, I don't think you are going to find many audiologists or ENT's who have this perspective. Most think of the ear as a passive participant in the world of sound. Singers and voice teachers, however, know better. Why? The latter, especially, understand what it means to mold a person's listening ability. It's malleable. If you change the way a person listens to sound, you change the way that person perceives themselves. Singing is a psychological matter, not just a mechanical one.

All this to say: you can sing with hearing aids, and you can sing very well. I am. Really. I am. I record myself at least once a week, and I sound very good for a 54 year old man. My voice isn't wobbling, nor it is dark, woofy and old sounding. Not bragging here, but I still sound very much like the guy on my two recordings on my voice studio website. Why? I like to think I know what I am doing technically, and yes—I sing my scales every day. Have I had my vocal issues? Of course. I've had to learn to sing with my aids, which has been a fascinating experience. It took me a while to get used to them. Now they are as much a part of me as my right arm.

Some things to consider if you suspect you have hearing loss and are a singer.

  1. Get tested! Do it now. Don't wait. Find an audiologist who works with singers. A rare thing perhaps, but they are worth their weight in gold. Start by finding an ENT who works with singers. Ask for a recommendation. 
  2. Get digital hearing aids. Yes. They are very expensive. But they are worth it. Mine are made by Phonak and designed with musicians in mind. They have two microphones. The sound is excellent. Yes. You can find good aids on Ebay, but you will need to find an audiologist who will agree to fit them. You may not, however, be able to return them. 
  3. Get hearing aids that have an "'open port," like the one you see in the photo above. Why? They give you better sound quality. "In-the-ear-canal" hearing aids aren't as good, which leads me to the next point....
  4. Terrified that someone is going to think you are old and that you can't sing well? That someone will see them?  Get over it. Really. I can't say it any other way. I was concerned about this too. But I got over it. Heck. I dealt with being gay and found myself a lot happier. It's that same dynamic. Staying in the closet about hearing loss is self-defeating and ultimately debilitating. The more you let yourself be ruled by this "fear thought," the more you are shooting yourself in the foot. FYI: 9 out out 10 people aren't going to even notice that you have them. Really. I am not making this up. And that 10th person? They are self-aware and won't hold it against you. 
  5. Digital hearing aids will have a "music program" as part of their software. I have this feature turned up. Why? It was cutting off when it reached a certain threshold, one which was too low for singing. You may need to inform your audiologist about this. You may even need to have the music program turned on all the time. Why? You will be hearing high frequencies—a good thing. 
  6. Wear your aids all the time. There is no getting around this. Thinking of them as the car you drive only on weekends is counterproductive. Me? I put them in when I wake up, and take them out when I go to sleep (no...they don't go in the shower or the pool). The only way to get used to wearing them is by wearing them! 
  7. Consider going to a Tomatis practitioner to give your ears a tune up. This will enable you to acclimate to your aids.
  8. Have your aids insured. This typically happens a year after you get them, when the warranty is up. Please don't be cheap and think you don't need it. You do. 
  9. Sing with them! Yes. It's going to be different, perhaps even disconcerting, but it behooves you to get in the swim of things. The more you do it, the better it gets. Listen to music too. Lots of it. Mozart especially, which has been proven to have a beneficial effect. Just make sure you use good earphones, not earbuds, which are not good for your ears. 
  10. Get used to the illusion of sound, that is, the corona of vibration surrounding your head. This is what those with excellent hearing and good vocal technique take as a matter of course. You don't want to smash your voice into the front of your face. Rather, you want to start hearing a clear, vibrant vowel that seems to be at the level of your ears and eyes, upper lip, and projects outwards. 

Having hearing loss isn't the end of the road. You can sing, and sing very well. You can also be a very good voice teacher. The key is to be proactive. 


Madelyn Narod said…
Thank you for writing this! So inspiring. So many important points were addressed and it's great to know, while most of my peers understand little about hearing loss, there are other people who know these facts! I wish more singers, and people with hearing losses would read this. I am a musical theatre student graduating college this spring and I have a genetic progressive hearing loss. have been wearing hearing aids since I was thirteen. Luckily I have an amazing mother who has been taking me to the audiologist's for hearing tests since birth and always provided me with the top technology in hearing aids. She has two cochlear implants and has been a teacher in deaf education for over thirty years. It's bothersome (and a little insulting) to know other students in my program admit to having hearing losses but don't wear hearing aids because "they don't want to." As a musical theatre singer venturing into the professional world soon (and hoping to end up in NYC in the near future) I thank you again for writing this!

-Madelyn, 20, Toronto
Mandi said…
Thank you so much.... I'm a 35 year old who lost a lot of my hearing as a child but has nonetheless been successful as a singer, and I'm venturing into the world of hearing aids. I'd been told I wouldn't be able to sing while wearing them, but this makes me hopeful.....
Dear Mandi, Thank you for your comment. If you obtain aids that sit in the ear canal, rather than those with an open port, then yes, it is hard to sing with them. The other factor will be the degree of your hearing loss and the amplification necessary. However, if you have been successful as a singer, then good hearing aids should not be a problem. Please let me know how things go, and feel free to get in touch with me at All best regards- Daniel
Kathryn Zerk said…
Dear Daniel, thankyou for sharing your story and for advice. Yesterday I was referred to an audiologist after contracting a viral infection in the inner ear which has caused high frequency hearing loss. I am an opera singer and singing teacher and I have never felt so vulnerable in my life. You have just given me a real sense of hope. I haven't yet contacted the audiologist, the whole idea has been terrifying, but now I just want to get on with it, thank you. Kathryn Zerk
Dear Kathryn—Thank you for your message. First off: my heart goes out to you! And I am sorry to hear about your infection and subsequent hearing loss. I've been wearing hearing aids now for about 5 years, and they feel like part of me. I teach with them, of course, and sing with them—all very life-changing, but in a good way. Do contact your audiologist, and let me know how things go via email, ok? Wishing you all good things- Daniel
In tip two, you mention that you should get digital hearing aids despite their extra costs. How much more would you be paying compared to the quality you'd get from digital hearing aids? We're trying to find the best option for our mom.
Thanks for your comment, Felicity. My post is geared towards singers. Top-of-the-line digital hearing aids cost in the neighborhood of 6 K. What does one get for that? These have 10 to 12 bands of sound which are molded to the listener's ear, while those at half that cost have only 5 or 6 bands of sound. As a musician, I wanted the highest quality I could obtain. However, if speaking is the only concern, this is a different matter.
Mary Kristy said…
I am voice teacher who just began teaching a man in his 60s who is noticing some problems while singing in the church choir. He wears hearing aids (probably the inner kind) and finds that his singing, which was always good, is off-key now. He is a tenor who seems to be consistently sharp on the higher notes. Singing with another person seems like it helps, but he is hoping to sing solos like he used to. I have only had one lesson with him so this is all I've noticed so far. I was wondering if there are vocal exercises I can do with him that would help his situation. I'm thinking there probably isn't, as it is a hearing loss issue. But he's so sad about it and worried that he's messing up the rest of the choir. Any suggestions? He says that singing with just me in the room is easy, but singing when there are lots of people around is difficult as he finds it hard to distinguish between sounds. So it sounds like it's best when all the tenors sing as a section, but bad when all four choral parts sing together because it sounds like cacophony to him.
Mary—Thank you for your comment. Several things stand out in your words that need further clarification. Find out what kind of hearing aids your student has. Are they really good ones? If not, why not? The answer to this is usually a financial matter. However, aids which aren't top-of-the-line digital ones are not good enough for singers. That's the first step. Once properly fitted, the process of singing with the aids can begin. If you have been reading my blog, you will know that I emphasize the singer's own audition which is apprehended via bone and air conduction. In simple terms, this means "feeling/hearing" that all the vowels have a vibratory core that is felt inside the skull as well as outside it. Closed vowels like [e] and [i] aid the singer in hearing the vibratory formation within the skull, that is, bone conduction, which must be extended to all other vowels. As well, the singer needs to re-learn to hear the voice is "stereo," that is, surrounding the head. This awareness can, of course, be somewhat obscured while singing with others. The trick, of course, is to maintain an awareness of bone conduction while singing with others. To understand this further would entail a demonstration, but I hope my words lead you in the right direction. Please feel free to be in touch via email. Daniel
Joe Uthup said…
Thank you so much for your posts, particularly the historically oriented ones. I really enjoy reading them.

I just wanted to point out that the muscles of the middle ear (stapedius and tensor tympani) actually only dampen the sound being transmitted to the cochlea. The stapedius muscle contracts when suddenly exposed to a loud sound in order to protect the cochlea from over stimulation. About 90% of hearing loss is sensorineural, meaning that it is caused by either cochlear or neural deficits. Thus strengthening the muscles of the middle ear will not improve hearing. The cochlea is arranged in a tonotopic fashion, that is to say that the haircells in each region of the cochlea respond to different frequencies (the base responds to high frequencies and apex to low frequencies). In the case of noise induced hearing loss (NIHL), it is the haircells in the cochlea that are no longer able to respond to certain frequencies (particularly in the 3-4kHz region). Once the haircells are gone (due to noise exposure, drug ototoxicity, or various other reasons), they are gone for good. Thus hearing aids, unlike glasses or contacts, are not corrective; they simply amplify the sound so that it can be picked up by the remaining haircells. A good analogy for this is listening to the radio in the car. If the signal is weak, turning the volume up may help with intelligibility but not clarity (since the static will also be increased). However, the good news is that haircell regeneration research is underway and looks like it may be a viable solution in the future.

Thank you again for all your posts. I'm a huge fan of your work.
Thank you for your comment, Joe Uthup. I encourage your to read Tomatis' "The Ear and the Voice." You will find there that Tomatis makes a distinction between listening and hearing. The model that you outline is one of hearing rather than listening—a passive rather than an active mechanism.
According to Tomatis, the muscles of the ear do a lot more than dampen sound entering the ear. In fact, they act as rudders of sound, and have a "zoom" mechanism that allows one to focus and defocus on sound like the eye does regarding visual information. This enables one to sit in a cafe reading a book and not "hear" anything around one for a good half-hour, while others, who's ears are not functioning properly, feel positively assaulted in the same environment. Obviously, something more than "hearing" is at work. Tomatis calls this "listening,' that is, the ability of the ear to focus on sound—and I might add, regardless of loss of hearing.

I have a friend who went a long time without hearing aids. He can't wear them at work because he finds the sounds around him disturbing. I, on the other hand, find the same environment to not be a problem at all. The difference? I am a musician and am trained to attend to the world of sound, while my friend interacts in a passive manner.

My point here is this, and one that I made in my post: regardless of the loss of hearing, the muscles of the ear are able to focus on sound just like the eye can on visual information. Does this mean that hearing aids are corrective? No. But again, your post reflects a passive rather than an active perspective.
Joe Uthup said…
Thank you for your reply. I completely agree with you that there is a distinction between listening and hearing. The phenomenon you describe in which an individual is able to focus in and out on specific sounds is known as the "Cocktail Party Effect" which is essentially a form of auditory stream segregation. However, this is actually a neurological phenomenon, not a muscular phenomenon. I do agree that active training should positively affect the way in which an individual attends to the world of sound. However, it is the brain that is trained in this process and not the muscles of the middle ear. I could be wrong but this is what I have learned in my studies as a musician minoring in speech and hearing. Thank you again for your kind reply. Best wishes!

Joe—I doubt very much that the training you received came from a "Tomatis" perspective, who, btw, had a very different view of how sound reaches the ear. I encourage you to read the middle section of "The Ear and the Voice."
Mich Spence said…
I think this what is happening to me. I am a classically trained singer. I am told time and time again that I have a beautiful voice. Unfortunately I haven't had ANY success because of my pitch problems. It's quite embarrassing. It's like having awful body odor. It stinks. I have been scolded and told I need to be a better student and practice more, I have heard many times that perhaps I am a mezzo instead of a soprano since I'm singing flat, I have spent years with teachers who believed I had to much tension in my body which caused my pitch problems and I have also heard many many times that I am singing unsupported. This has been my problem since I began singing in high school,on through college and beyond. When I turned 30, I decided if I did not place in a competition I was trying for, I would give up singing.
When I did not place, I stopped singing and studying. I dropped my then voice teacher who used to scold me for my pitch problems. I got married and had a baby. But I missed singing. On a whim, at 33, I took a few lessons with a teacher a friend was studying with. This teacher suspected I had a weak ear and she asked me to put cotton in one ear while I sang. After she asked me which ear did I think was my stronger ear. I picked the wrong one based off of how I felt. (I couldn't honestly hear a difference) she told me I was wrong in my choice. And I decided to stop studying with her because I didn't want to go through another teacher student discipline journey.
After having my 2nd child I missed singing again. I joined an amateur chorus. There were auditions for solos in the mozart requiem. I really wanted it so I practiced hard and recorded myself. On all of the recordings, I sang flat! Trying different things to sing in tune, I covered my left ear. When I listend back to the recording it was PERFECTLY IN TUNE!! So, I bought earplugs and did the audition. I impressed the auditioned and have been getting more offers. I'm sure to always plug my left ear where ever and when ever I sing.
I'm so happy I found your blog. I think my problem is hearing certain frequencies in my left ear. Now, I will start on a new journey with my singing.
Thank you for your comment, Mich Spence. First off: I am very sorry to hear that your teachers were rough with you. No one deserves to be treated in that way. Ever. Second: It's really great that you have found that your right ear can lead you. I believe you may be able to use both your ears with continued training. To do this, you might practice by holding your RIGHT HAND closed in a fist (like holding a brush handle) up to the right side of your mouth. Hold it very close, no more than 2-3 inches away, located on the right side of your mouth, which will direct your singing and speaking tone to your right ear. This will help you get used to leading with the right ear. I was given this exercise after I was at the Listening Centre in Toronto in 1999, and did it as advised for a whole year. If possible, you might also consider a course of Tomatis listening training which awakens the right ear to lead. I wish you all the best, and look forward to hearing news of your progress. Email me! Daniel
Marie Gauvin said…
Sure you can sing with hearing aids I do and they are not expensive ones. I was always shy and self conscious about singing by myself. My new husband is guitar player and singer. When I lost most of my hearing in left ear a year ago was very upset. Got the hearing aids and in Sept my husband started helping me with my voice and timing. Soon I was able to sing live with him and then got daring and wanted to song on my own. Needless to say many months later I am doing great, hard work, lots practicing. Singing live at jams and jamborees, getting lots of compliments and loving it. You can do it too.
Thank you for your comment, Marie Gauvin. Great to hear that you are having success singing with your aids.
sus4 said…
I'm a musician/singer. The problem I've been having is hearing the pitches wrong. If I play a C on the piano I hear a C#. This is very sad for me. Not only did I develop hearing loss, but also a pitch problem. The doctors I talked to said there is nothing that can be done. I've been wearing Phonak hearing aids for about 7 years and I do wear them every day all day. I also play piano in a couple of big bands and I cannot explain the mish mosh I'm hearing. I'm still hoping to find a solution with my problem, but I'm not very optimistic. It's bad enough being a musician and losing your hearing, but also hearing the pitches wrong. A very depressing situation to say the least. Have you ever come across a situation like mine before and if you did, how did you handle it? Thanks.
Hi there, sus4. Thank you for your message. I do not know for certain whether a course of Listening Training would help you, but I suggest that you contact Paul Madaule at the Listening Centre in Toronto and discuss the matter. All best regards, Daniel
sus4 said…
Daniel, thanks for the response. I'll check out your suggestions.
Peter Bloch said…
As a classical singer with moderate to moderately-severe upper frequency hearing loss, I have spent quite a lot of time with audiologists attempting to adjust my aids to my best advantage for singing.
I am hoping that some of the following points may assist your audiologist in helping you...
1) You will need an "open-fit" aid, if your prescription will allow this (what Daniel calls 'open port'). This allows the lower frequencies, often well-preserved in people with hearing loss, to pass relatively unimpeded into the ear. In a 'closed-fit' (mold in ear) aid, these lower frequencies are more obstructed and must therefore be amplified. Through a process called "masking" this makes it more difficult to benefit from the amplified higher frequencies and also creates an unpleasant reflection of one's own voice within the head.
2) You need an aid with a music program. The algorithms used to amplify sounds in hearing aids is overwhelmingly geared towards the understanding of speech and for several reasons are not ideal for the amplification of music. Music programs aim to address these issues, with some success.
3) Your audiologist will need to increase the Maximum Power Output (MPO) in your music program. MPO is something that is present in all hearing instruments and is used to protect the wearer from over-amplification with loud inputs. Any classically trained voice is frequently considerably louder than everyday speech, and so your instrument may abruptly cease to amplify vocal sounds that are louder or higher in the range, where you may be most dependent on the amplification of higher frequencies in order to hear the overtones (frequencies higher than the fundamental) in order to sing well. As long as the amplification is not very high indeed, your hearing will be safe with moderate exposure. Your audiologist can advise.
3) Some modern aids have an algorithm designed to transpose higher frequencies downwards to assist people with high frequency hearing loss better to understand speech (Phonak calls theirs "SoundRecover". This is a disaster for a musician, since you will likely hear the fundamental on key (through the open-fit) with the overtones transposed slightly downwards (i.e. out of tune!). So make sure that any such algorithm is switched off. It is on by default in many aids.
4)You may have heard that modern aids have many more "channels" than in the past. What this means is that the amplification for different pitches can be set more precisely to your hearing loss. If your audiogram changes very gradually from one frequency to the next, then most modern aids will suffice. However if, like mine, there are abrupt changes (my hearing drops off a cliff at 3,000 Hz) then more channels may be worth paying for.
5) I need my music program set a little louder than my other programs to assist my singing. You could experiment with this.
7) If you can, find an audiologist who finds it interesting and enjoyable to help you get your music program right and, if possible, that they are reasonably bright. Otherwise, they are unlikely to take the time and invest the energy needed to make sure that you have the best aids for your needs, and you may not get your aids set up right.
I do hope this helps some of you! Good luck.
Hi Peter,

Thank you for your excellent comment. I have the exact same configuration you describe with my Phonak aids in terms of having the music program adjusted for singing, more channels, and "Soundrecover" turned off. All good stuff. Thank you again- Daniel
Peter Bloch said…
Hi Daniel,
I'm glad to hear that you've worked all this out too. But also slightly disappointed that you haven't discovered something extra that might help me!
There's one extra thing thing that helped with my Phonak aids that might help you. I didn't mention it before, because I wasn't sure how to explain it properly. Here's a try...
Although most modern aids claim to amplify sounds up to 10,000 Hz, in practice most offer little useful amplification above 5-6K. This makes music sound a little dull, like the tone dial turned down on an old radio.
This problem can be exacerbated by the feedback cancellation algorithm, which is designed to prevent aids from whistling. Higher frequencies (harmonics) in singing can be mistaken for feedback and not amplified. You can experiment with reducing (considerably) the sensitivity of this feature in the music program, which I found improved sound quality significantly. The only drawback, which I consider a price worth paying, is some initial whistling when I switch to the music program before the feedback manager gets it under control.
One other thing about channels - more is not invariably better for the musician. If you have a fairly smooth gradient in your audiogram you may actually do better with less channels. This is because the volume (amount of sound) relationship between the fundamental and the overtones (harmonics) of a sung tone will truer (i.e. amplified a similar amount). The main advantage of more channels (for people with a relatively smooth gradient in their audiogram) is for speech in a noisy environment, where the aids can selectively stop amplifying a narrow range of frequencies where there is unwanted noise, leaving a greater part of the range still amplified to help with the understanding of speech.
Thank you for your additional comment, Peter. Something extra? My own sense is that the technology is wonderful to have—and it is a great boon to singers—however, the focus of the singer must be as much inwardly and outwardly directed. That is to say, the inner feedback loop of bone conduction is what the singer leans on—and it what many teachers call the "feeling" of the sound. I personally don't fuss with my aids very much, and don't have an external device to change their settings if only because my hearing loss in minor. I have not had distortions in which to navigate around—which sounds like your issue. I can say this, however: my vocal technique has become fine-tuned as a result of having my aids. Not in compensation for what I am not hearing, but because I now have a much better sense of how good singing feels. This goes back to my point about "listening" to bone conduction and the Buzz which is something that is only heard in cultivated stage diction and not every day speech.
Irene said…
Hi Daniel,

Thank you very much for sharing your experiences both in this post and in your post about tinnitus. I have hearing loss and tinnitus following head trauma three years ago, which has been challenging for me as a music lover and amateur singer. I've just recently found a good audiologist who is willing to work with me to find a hearing-aid solution that will - I hope - allow me to enjoy singing Georgian polyphony and listening to Shostakovich again. I found your advice (and the comments) informative and reassuring, and I hope your own experience with hearing aids continues to be positive.

Best wishes,
Thank you for your comment, Irene. Very sorry to hear about your trauma, hearing loss, and tinnitus, but glad you have found an audiologist who is willing to work with you. Once you have your aids, do wear them all the time, and give yourself a lot, lot, lot of time to adjust to them. Looking back, I can say that it took me about a year to get used to them—before they stopped sounding "tinny" and I heard every little adjustment they were making. Then again, the programming for them has gotten a lot better. Wishing you all the best on your journey. Do keep me posted via email—which you can find at my website. All best regards- Daniel
Dear Reader. I am on my 5th day of a 10-day Tomatis "boost" (I've taken multiple courses of listening training via the Listening Centre in Toronto, Canada) and want to reiterate that the ear/brain's ability to process can be modified, trained, enhanced—whatever you want to call it. Mine certainly is at the moment. My singing voice has changed, I've noticed increased clarity of audition/perception in spaces where everyone is talking at once (a problem for many who can't turn down background noise), and my thinking process is clear as a bell. All this from listening to filtered Mozart which is "gated" to exercise the muscles of my ear. Who knew? Tomatis, of course. A man way ahead of his time. All best regards- Daniel
pelhamhoyt said…
thank you so much for this initial posting and the responses through the years. I was conservatory trained and have listened to music from that perspective my whole life. (no laptop or phone music for me, and the TV sound coming through a Bose...) So I've dreaded the "yelling" of hearing aids, and the stoppered ears and fighting with wax that I see with me mom. So your blog + some Phonak recommendations from friends who are singers and sound engineers has finally motivated me to trust that there is a hearing aid out there that can help me. I'm scheduled for a consultation and we'll see! Thanks for your help getting me over a "hump" in my life...
Thank you for your comment, pelhamhoyt. I am still getting used to my new ones. It's very cool that they interface with my iPhone. But more importantly, they enable me to sing and teach at a much higher level. Yes, they take some getting used too. Making sure they are fit properly is important. The wax issue? I clean mine every night. Not a big deal. Takes 30 seconds if that. Phonak is very good. I have ReSound at the moment. Truth to tell? I liked the way Phonak fit very much—and have had to had my ReSound aids tinkered with somewhat. All this to say: great to hear that you are over the hump. Let me know how it goes. You can be in touch via Kind regards- Daniel
Phil Shaw said…
Your comments are a breath of fresh air for people with hearing loss who love singing. I retired from professional singing back in 2013 because I slowly lost my ability to pitch in correctly. I knew my hearing was poor for a number of reasons eg; years of exposure to industrial noise in the workplace, listening to very loud bands, DJ's playing very loud disco music at night clubs, suffered a perforated ear drum as a child (healed over and scarred for life leaving me with 50% hearing loss in my left ear) I've had to concentrate very hard on anything anyone ever said to me since I was a young 10 year old till now (65 years old) I learned to listen and got my hearing used to hearing my type of music delivered my way through my PA system delivering tunes to my ear with my microphone allowing me to pitch in correctly for over 25 years until 2013 when it all became just too difficult to sing in tune. I struggled in my day job to hear people properly so I went to see an audiologist and to cut a long story short eventually found some hearing aids that replaced the frequencies I had lost. I had to learn to sing again with this different sound being delivered through my very expensive hearing aids (Oticon Open) but knowing my ears had a complex, clever ability to adapt and learn over again until I knew I was singing in tune again. The most important thing I have learned from this journey is that singing with hearing aids is very possible but you must concentrate very hard on what you are doing. I used to sing songs a lot easier when I was younger but now I have to work a bit harder and concentrate and as a matter of fact I have developed better techniques and become a much, much better singer today at 65 years old. I took the plunge 18 months ago and purchased a new PA system (I was so disillusioned back in 2013 I sold my last one) brighter backing tracks and I am back on the circuit singing again. Let's hope for a good few more years to come.

Phil Shaw
Unknown said…
Hello, glad to find your thread. I have been singing since an infant and harmony came naturally as I have relative pitch. I sang in choir, rock and country bands and have recorded on Cds lead and harmony vocals.

My hearing loss developed and one day at work my boss said they did not think i was paying attention! It was a difficult hearing environment with Music overhead, a single ear bud with employees calling out instructions, other employees and customers speaking nearby and also needing to hear who was right in front of me. I would pull the earbud out to focus.

My singing was also changing as I lost my range and I thought I had lost ability to harmonize! I am female alto but could always hit hi and lonesome high harmonies. I thought it was a breath or confidence issue but I sounded like Johnny Cash!

Day after i got hearing test and found 70% loss in high frequencies. I now have hearing aids and the music function removes the added features for the most natural sound.

I have come to understand i was singing on pitch and just fine...but i could not hear the highs so i thought it was off! My guitar high strings, i could not hear either.

It is like having a bad monitor but it is in my head. If I cannot hear it I am struggling to sing it.

I still have trouble in large musical groups as it turns to chaos, but am working with a vocal coach to get my confidence back. Recording my voice I am hearing it is on pitch and I am hopeful to regain my confidence singing.

I will revisit to see how others are doing and keep singing and playing!
Unknown said…
Hi my name is Dennis I'm a 67 year old spinto tenor with hearing aids, having trouble hearing my self vocally and I hate how I hear myself, my friends and family say I sound wonderful, why can't I hear what they hear? How do fix this? I'm ready to call it quits, but family told me not too. I'm so confused.
Daniel Shigo said…
Thank you of your comment (which oddly enough, I am seeing for the first time today). You can't hear what other people hear because the sound of your voice is differently perceived in your head because of bone conduction which sounds buzzy—especially so as a spinto tenor. It's your private audition. Keep singing!
Daniel Shigo said…
Thank you for your comment, Phil Shaw. Apologies for not seeing your comment until today—and getting it published. I am glad to know that you are still singing, and that your new aids have made a difference. Yes, it takes some concentration. I think you will find that things get easier as your brain gets used to the stimulation. All best regards, Daniel
Daniel Shigo said…
Thank you for your comment, which I am just seeing today. It sounds like you are making progress with your new aids. It takes a while for the brain to get used to things. I encourage you to keep at it. All best regards, Daniel