The earliest hearing aid, by some accounts, dates to the 17th century, with French priest and mathematician Jean Leurechon’s documenting of an ear trumpet in his book Recreations Mathematique.
Advances did not come until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with Miller Rees Hutchinson’s invention of the first portable hearing aid using a carbon transmitter, followed by engineer Earl Hanson patenting a vacuum tube version that quickly became a commercial success.
And while the technology since then “has made strides in terms of speech,” according to Emily Sandgren and Joshua Alexander of Purdue University, hearing aids remain “subpar” for music lovers.
Sandgren and Alexander were speaking at the 184th annual conference of the Acoustical Society of America earlier this month, where they discussed their research into the sound of music as picked up through seven hearing aid brands.
To test the aids, researchers asked study participants to rate the sound quality of over 200 music samples. They said they found bigger differences in music quality between hearing aid brands than between speech and music programmes.
”One contributing factor is how hearing aids adapt to loud, sudden sounds,” said Sandgren. “When you’re listening to a conversation, if a door slams behind you, you don’t want that door slam to be amplified very much. But with music, there are loud sudden sounds that we do want to hear, like percussion instruments.”
Distortion may be one of the biggest problems, as unlike speech, music means “intense low-frequency harmonics.”
Whatever the cause, the disparity means people affected by hearing loss are losing out on something widely enjoyed by others.
A 2021 survey by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) suggested people were listening, on average, to more than 18 hours of music a week.
”People with hearing loss deserve both ease of communication and to maintain quality of life by enjoying sources of entertainment like music,” said Sandgren. – AFP Relaxnews