Top 5 on Music and Hearing

Best News Articles in August 2013 for Musicians with Hearing Loss

Listening_to_music
“Audio” by William Brawley via Creative Commons.
Imagine hearing songs play nonstop as if broadcast on a radio—but they’re only in your head. This type of auditory hallucination associated with hearing loss made the headlines this month, and is part of our roundup for musicians with hearing loss.

Musical Hallucinations, a Form of Tinnitus

Many people with hearing loss experience tinnitus; but some, instead of hearing a ringing or buzzing, hear familiar songs in their heads, as clear as if they were playing on an iPod. Our Guest Poet, Mary Jo Balistreri, has experienced this condition, called musical ear syndrome. She actually found it a comforting presence that helped her deal with the trauma of profound hearing loss, as she wrote in an essay that will appear in an anthology of Wisconsin writers this fall. According to ABC News, musical hallucinations can be visual as well: one patient, an “amateur pianist who was losing his vision to macular degeneration, started seeing musical notations he said appeared ‘just like a sheet of real music.'”

A Family Band with Five Hard-of-Hearing Members

A New Hampshire family with 10 children is unique in that they all perform together as a band—despite the fact that five of the children have mid-frequency hearing loss. Doctors haven’t yet determined whether their particular type of hearing loss is genetic, or how it will likely pan out for the course of their lives. The Boston Globe story on the Nadeaus highlights the sense of camaraderie for those with hearing loss in such a big, supportive clan: “Some of the children with normal hearing went through a phase of wanting their own pair of hearing aids, nicknamed ‘pretty ears.'”

A Music Player That Adjusts for Your Hearing Loss

Any kind of hearing loss changes our perception of music. Now there’s an app for that: SoundFocus first administers a simple hearing test in three different ranges. Then it creates a personalized filter for your music, with the treble, mid, and bass levels adjusted for optimal listening. Unfortunately, the app can’t account for differences between your two ears and other subtleties, but the company, whose CEO has a hearing loss, is working on more robust products. Evolver.fm writes, “It’s possible that the SoundFocus hardware will offer more detail, which would be good news for the massive percentage of the listening population that has some degree of hearing loss, but doesn’t know it.”

Dangerously High Decibel Levels at Restaurants

Food critics have been speaking out about the extreme noise levels at trendy restaurants these days. Restaurant reviewer Michael Bauer wrote about one not-so-out-of-the-ordinary San Francisco eatery: “The music got even louder so that even with everyone trying to talk above it, diners could still hear every note coming out of the sound system. It was like eating in a rock concert.” And in New York City, Eater measured decibel levels at the hottest restaurants, several of which were over 90 and even over 100—levels as loud as power tools and snowmobiles.

How Audiologists Can Work with Musicians with Hearing Loss

Audiologists tend to be intimidated when their patients are musicians, because they have such specific and crucial needs. We have cited Marshall Chasin’s blog many times before, but he keeps writing right on target. This time, he declares, “Audiologists and musicians speak a different language. But they are talking about the same thing.” By becoming more aware of the other’s jargon, the audiologist and musician can work together to make progress on both of their favorite subjects: sound.

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