So, you’ve treated your hearing loss with hearing aids – but you’re now wondering how you can best optimize your listening settings for the different environments you find yourself in.

One of the most common questions my team and I get asked by patients is, “How can I optimize my hearing aids to best enjoy music?”

It’s a great question and one worth exploring, so let’s dive in. 

I’ve been a doctor of audiology at Pacific Hearing Service for around 15-16 years, and I strive to help the local people in and around Silicon Valley hear the life they love. In addition to being an audiologist, I was an opera singer for about 20 years, singing all across the country. 

I’ve been working here and singing at the same time. So instead of doing operas, now I am a performer with the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, both as a soloist and a professional member of the chorus.

Because of this, my team often refers to me as the resident expert on music. So, I’d like to share some useful information for those of you who are wondering how to better enjoy music now that you have hearing aids.

Train Your Brain To Hear Music Better

When considering how we can optimize our listening setting for music, it’s essential to recognize that we hear with our brain – not our ears. So, it all starts with training the brain.

#1 – Practice Repeated Exposure

By practice and repeating exposure to musical stimuli, it can play an important role in determining how effectively and how much enjoyment the individual might receive from musical experiences.

The very first step is starting out with music that’s familiar. We’ve all been sheltered in place for the last year and we’re going to start to go out and go to concerts, aren’t we?

So, now is a perfect time to be practicing training your ears for that live music or whatever music you’re going to be hearing soon. During that training, ensure you listen to some really familiar music.

For example, Somewhere Over The Rainbow. This song starts out with simple music and then builds to more complex solos, maybe one person singing with a piano or one cellist playing. Then move on to listen to some duets and then maybe grow onto ensembles or full orchestras.

Start out with music that’s slower because it can be easier to follow, and then on your stereo or whatever you’re listening with, you can adjust the treble or the bass and see if that helps your ears.

You might be able to practice this while you’re using YouTube or Spotify or your CDs and recordings. So just do some concentrated practice.

#2 – Use Headphones

If I put on a good pair of headphones and listen to music, I can hear better that way. Put them on to train your brain.

I’m not saying you must wear headphones all the time, but that can help you receive the musical training your brain and hearing need.

#3 – Remove Your Hearing Aids

This next one is kind of a big one. Try listening without your hearing aids. You might find that you actually hear that little better without your hearing aids.

So don’t be afraid! We give you permission to take them off.

Some people hear much better with them in though – if this is the case for you, then try to listen in a room with good acoustics and see how that works out for you.

#4 – Turn Your Hearing Aids Up

Your hearing aid has a microphone that only allows a certain amount of sound in. So, if you’re at home listening and you need the volume louder, don’t turn up your music from the source.

Instead, turn it up at your hearing aid. If you turn it up at the source, it can saturate the microphone and give you more distortion, which of course you don’t want.

So, turn the music down, but turn up your hearing aids. Those are just a few tips, but if you’d like to find out more for specific circumstances, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.   

Streaming Music Via Bluetooth

I usually have patients listen to the type of music they like in the office and then we can make software changes to different hearing aids to increase the bass, increase the treble, soften it.

By doing this, we can customize settings for each patient and their individual music tastes. It’s not unusual for us to ask patients, “What kind of music do you like?”

We’ll find something on YouTube and play that, and we can make adjustments in real time. 

So, something that patients can do to prepare for this appointment is they can come along with some of their favorite music on their phone, and that way, when they show up to the appointment, they’re ready to go. 


How Can Hearing Aid Technology Help?

Thank goodness for the modern hearing instruments we have today that have a very good understanding of trying to reduce as much as possible, putting more distortion into your ears and therefore up to your brain.

In terms of the advanced technology available in the hearing aids we provide at Pacific Hearing Service, here are some of the top features that can assist you in enjoying music through your hearing aids.

∙ Multi microphones to pick up sounds up to 25 meters away

∙ Special noise management strategies that can recognize music is playing

∙ Apps that will allow you to control the sound in the environment that you’re in

So, if you are at a concert or at an outdoor venue and the music isn’t sounding right, there are overrides that you can do on a smartphone or an app to really help your music experience be as positive as possible. 

Music vs. Noise vs. Speech

Usually, the problem with noise is that when music is being played, we don’t want the hearing aids to think that it’s just noise and not music.

So, all the hearing aid manufacturers have worked on trying to automatically determine what’s coming into the hearing aid – music versus noise versus speech.

If you don’t agree with what the hearing aid has determined, there are settings that you can manipulate with that app to see if you can make the sound even better for your personal enjoyment. 

All the hearing devices that we provide at Pacific Hearing Service have a music training system that the chip goes through. So, automatically, today’s modern hearing devices do recognize and can recognize whether it’s speech or music.

If you’re considering hearing aids and how they can be optimized for listening to music – all you have to do is put them in and forget about it.

As audiologists, we can then fine-tune some of those aspects individually, depending upon your individual hearing treatment goal.

We Can Help You Adjust To Your Unique Environment

 I know some of my patients say, “I don’t want to take out my phone, why can’t the device just do its own thing?”

Well, thank goodness that modern hearing devices respond to the majority of it automatically. 

Those of you who have very specific music listening requests, there are apps now today that can help override your hearing device and help you be able to connect and really participate when you want to.

So, as an example, in our most current hearing device, we actually have a music program that you can manually go to.

 Here’s a great example to further explain the benefit of making these personal adjustments.

 If you’re in a choir and you’re standing next to people and they’re singing loudly, softly, or average – we then don’t want the hearing aids to saturate.

 So for this situation, we might have to create a music program that is going to bring things down a little bit – it might take some really intense practicing.

 The other thing about singing in a chorus or an orchestra is when you’re at rehearsal, you also must be able to hear the conductor talking.

 It’s a real challenge when you’re in this kind of situation and you’ve got your hearing aids set for music, but then you need to hear the conductor.

 Those are all different situations, and we have different strategies, but the main thing is having a hearing aid program that does not cause distortion. This is where a visit to your audiologist would be extremely beneficial to ensure your unique circumstances are catered for.

Ready To Start Hearing The Life You Love?

My team and I at Pacific Hearing Service have experience with thousands of unique patients across Silicon Valley and strive to ensure everyone gets to experience their hearing to its fullest potential.

If you or a loved one is looking to optimize your listening experience with your hearing aids – don’t just settle for average! We’re here to help you continue to adjust to whatever activities bring you joy in life.

To schedule an appointment, fill out the form on this page.

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Margaret (Peg) Lisi, Au.D.

Clinical Audiologist, Menlo Park office: Dr. Lisi is from Madison, WI. She received her master’s degree in audiology from San Francisco State University and her doctorate degree in audiology from the University of Florida, Gainesville.