I have just added a piece of equipment to my system which has totally transformed it. It’s not a DAC, pre-amp or power amp. It’s a Phonak Paradise 90, a hearing aid.
Please continue reading this as I think it is important &, given the likely average age here, may benefit some of you & makes salutary reading.
I will be 66 in September & bought my Nova in the middle of 2019 & it sounded great. A year later I started to note how many pieces of music weren’t that well recorded. All the detail appeared to remain but the top end ‘sparkle’ had gone.
At the same time my wife was getting more annoyed with me than usual for continually saying ‘pardon?’ when speaking to her. She has pretty good to excellent hearing & listens to the TV at low volumes that meant I was struggling to hear all that was being said, particularly in modern drama productions & films. Programs with straight forward sound, most old TV, news & sport, were OK in the main. A constant battle with the TV volume control, with a gentle boost from me from say 9 to 11, was meet with the angry comment ‘it’s far too loud, are you deaf’. After a few months this turned to ‘you’re going deaf’. In the battle of the TV volume there was only ever going to be one winner & it wasn’t me.
I started to notice that, whilst following most conversations with my wife, shop assistants & friends (over the phone) I was having to concentrate quite hard & certainly could not just listen with half an ear. I was also starting to exhibit the classic syndrome of sometimes guessing what was being said & getting incredulous looks at some of my replies.
In my 20’s & 30’s my ears need syringing on a regular basis, about twice a year, but this became unnecessary in later years. Finally I recognised that something was wrong with my hearing & one ear felt exactly as if it were blocked with ear wax. The other ear felt fine.
Hearing good things of modern micro suction, as opposed to old fashion syringing, I booked an appointment with an audiologist who confirmed that there was indeed a wax build up in both ears. An appointment was booked for early November 2020 for micro suction in both ears.
I turned up expecting great things but it did not turn out as planned. The procedure took less than a minute or so for each ear & left me virtually deaf. We waited 10 minutes for things to settle down but nothing changed. The audiologist then gave me a full hearing test where I struggled to hear much at all. It diagnosed severe treble loss in one ear, impaired mid-range in the same ear & less, but similar, loss in the other ear. My own GP could offer no explanation of the sudden &, to me, catastrophic hearing loss other than to say that it occasionally happens.
Very few things in normal life get me down (OK except Norwich City loosing week after week every time we are in the Premier League) but I felt shattered by events. The GP & audiologist both said I needed hearing aids. This was depressing news on several counts:-
- Surely I was far too young? Apparently not. Normal hearing loss usually starts around age 50.
- The stigma I believed attached to people wearing hearing aids. Women would give me a wide berth (not that most ever gave me a narrow one!) & more seriously the hard of hearing are often perceived as not very bright & treated as such.
- I would never hear my beloved music again properly. Really tough to take this one.
I was fitted with the hearing aids late last month & have to say the difference they have made is quite unbelievable. I can enjoy the TV at the same volumes as my wife & at times have to turn the volume on the aids down. It’s more than my life’s worth to tell her to turn the TV down! Conversation in shops & over the phone sounds like it always did once more & I haven’t embarrassed myself by saying something stupid to a comment I have not heard properly.
Best of all however, the Hi Fi now sounds superb. Every, & I mean every aspect of the sound has vastly improved. Every instrument & voice is clearly separated across a wider sound stage, vocals are more forward & realistic sounding & the clarity, without being in anyway harsh, has to be heard to be believed. I honestly believe the sound is very natural & how I would have heard it when my ears were last functioning at 100%. Very few pieces of music now sound poorly recorded to the extent that they were 2/3 months ago. Volume wise, I had not lost a lot. Low background listening when I am reading the paper has only meant reducing the Nova’s volume from 20 to 18 most of the time. It is the clarity of the mid’s & high’s that has exhibited such a huge improvement, bearing out the hearing test showing a loss in theses frequencies but everything else to be pretty much OK at the moment.
The hearing aids were not cheap, about £2,500, but appear to be worth every penny. They are supposed to be very sophisticated & have a huge range of tuning options via a smartphone/tablet app. However, the audiologist sets them up initially via a program not available to users & which works by taking the data direct from the hearing test itself. She seems to have got it spot on first time as in my case & no tweaking was required in a check up 3 weeks after the initial set up. All that is recommended is an annual check up to keep everything up to scratch.
I can honestly say that everything I hear sounds perfectly natural, & being music mad like all on here, I have listened long & critically to the Hi Fi to convince myself that I am not pretending that all is well when it isn’t.
So the message to anyone who can identify with what I have said above is a loud & clear ‘Do Something About It Sooner Than Later’.
BTW the hearing aids are all but invisible & I am totally unaware that I am wearing them 99.9% of the time. When I take my covid mask off when coming out of a shop I sometime catch the aid & half pull it off but this is no more than a very minor inconvenience.
I mentioned the stigma of wearing aids & have to admit that I have not gone broadcasting the fact to all & sundry yet, still feeling a little embarrassed. This feeling is getting less as time passes & I don’t think it will be an issue for me much longer.
As I said at the top of this long post, the hearing aids are the most significant improvement I have ever made to my system since installing an LP12 in the early 80’s & Naim amps later in the same decade.
I hope you have made it to the end of this extremely long, & I feel important post, & I hope by detailing my experiences some people on this forum will benefit from them.
Thanks for reading.