Monday, 5 November 2012

Hearing aid update: my flute and Paper Aeroplanes


Yesterday was a music-filled day and I loved it.

You see, since coming home on Friday evening after work, broken from my week of partying, I wasn't able to get the amazement that I'd been able to hear my neighbour's daughter playing her flute in the downstairs flat.

I mean, if I could hear that flute, then surely I'd be able to hear my own.

So yesterday afternoon I decide to locate my flute and all my sheet music, both of which were buried right at the back of my spare room underneath the bed, where I hid them to try and dull the sadness I felt at not being able to play anymore when I moved in three years ago.

I loved my flute. As a violinist from the age of 6, I begged the rents to let me play the flute too, but my amazing flute teacher-to-be said I had to be 10 years old so that I was big enough to reach the keys without constricting my rib cage and breathing.

On my 10th birthday I had my first lesson. It was love at first hear and I flew up the grades.

When I lost more hearing in my teens, I just ploughed on through, playing my pieces an octave lower until I knew the tune then dealing with the silence the higher notes brought.

When I moved to London I sought out a teacher. He was amazing. He taught me sound visualisation so that I got the right diaphragm pressure to create the high notes I couldn't hear.

But instead of being happy, I found myself being a ball of emotion in my fortnightly lessons. I cried frequently, sometimes out of sadness but mostly out of frustration that I was no longer getting the same enjoyment from my flute.

It affected everything and I could feel a growing resentment for my deafness – something I'd fought hard to overcome, so in the end I stopped my lessons and banished the flute to the depths of my underbed storage.

So you see, really, yesterday wasn't really just about seeing whether the Sound Recover on my new Phonaks was going to help me get my flute back.

I started with some trepidation, warming up with a few Bach studies and Morceau de Concours by Claude Arrieu. The sound came. My lungs seemed horrified at the breathing I was asking them to do.

And the sound?

Well, I think I could hear the Sound Recover function's adjustment of the higher notes but the problem was, these weren't moved into a harmonious place, the notes were jarring with the pitch of the note I was actually playing.

It was so frustrating.

It would be like playing a piano piece with the left in the correct key and the right hand a semitone apart from what it should be. It was not pretty.

But it made me wonder – and if any knowledgeable hearing aid peeps could answer this I'd be eternally grateful – can the Sound Recover be moved so that the notes come out in harmony or even better an octave lower? Is there anything I can do to improve this? Or is it something that will improve over time?

What I can confirm is that yesterday I enjoyed playing more than I have done in a long time. My hearing aids definitely made the music better and because of this, I played better. I wasn't nearly as rusty as I'd thought I'd be and practising the fast-moving high bits was easier and more rewarding because I wasn't just hearing nothing. OK, it was a slightly out of key Sound-Recovered pitch, but beggars really can't be choosers.

Then yesterday evening, I went to see Paper Aeroplanes – a Welsh band – at The Lexington with HB. I first discovered Paper Aeroplanes after Shazam-ing a song of theirs and it too was love at first listen. They're splendid. And yesterday, they didn't disappoint.

Cautiously I wore my ear plugs for most of the gig, still terrified from my Pavlov's Dog experience, but for the encore I took out my ear plugs and put in my hearing aids and it was wonderful. Notes shone through, lyrics became a little bit easier to lipread and I was in audio heaven. 

As I drove home along the Marylebone Road, singing at the top of my voice to my booming stereo, I marvelled at how much I love these little pieces of technology adorning my ears. I love them in a way I never expected. They're enhancing my life on a daily basis, and I'm not even at the 12-week mark yet.

Now all I have to do, is get Sound Recover at the correct pitch spacing. Perhaps I should just take my flute to my next hearing appointment.

I mean, that wouldn't be weird at all, right?

4 comments:

Chronicles of a Bionic Woman said...

Nope, that wouldn't be weird at all :)

I have taken my fav music tracks to my hearing appointments in the past to get the audiologist to adjust my programme to hear some of the pitches. It gives them something specific to work with.

Go for it and all the best!

Dan Schwartz, Editor, The Hearing Blog said...

Return the hearing aids and get Starkey or Widex instead: Phonak's sound Recover uses non-linear frequency compression, which you exquisitely describe:

Well, I think I could hear the Sound Recover function's adjustment of the higher notes but the problem was, these weren't moved into a harmonious place, the notes were jarring with the pitch of the note I was actually playing.

It was so frustrating.

It would be like playing a piano piece with the left in the correct key and the right hand a semitone apart from what it should be. It was not pretty.

But it made me wonder – and if any knowledgeable hearing aid peeps could answer this I'd be eternally grateful – can the Sound Recover be moved so that the notes come out in harmony or even better an octave lower? Is there anything I can do to improve this? Or is it something that will improve over time?

What I can confirm is that yesterday I enjoyed playing more than I have done in a long time. My hearing aids definitely made the music better and because of this, I played better. I wasn't nearly as rusty as I'd thought I'd be and practising the fast-moving high bits was easier and more rewarding because I wasn't just hearing nothing. OK, it was a slightly out of key Sound-Recovered pitch, but beggars really can't be choosers.


As I tweeted to you and Amy, what you want are hearing aids from Starkey with SpectralIQ or Widex with their Audibility Extender: Both frequency lowering technologies maintain the harmonic structure, which is necessary for music.

So Yes, you can be choosy and bring back the music!

Dan Schwartz,
Editor, The Hearing Blog

Anonymous said...

I say long live the music! Enjoy.

Dr. Tom said...

Admittedly, I haven't read the entire post (I wandered in here through another blog), and so you may already be aware of this, but, what you can do is have your audiologist disable the Sound Recover.

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