If you recently started wearing hearing aids and play piano, you may find this note useful. If you don’t and never have worn hearing aids, but you play a musical instrument, you may find this interesting. If you’re like me and have worn hearing aids for some time and play piano, well, you may have already experienced what I am about to tell. This is not based on any research I’ve done or read about hearing aids and playing a musical instrument. It’s entirely anecdotal based on my recent personal experience.
I’m 67 and started wearing hearing aids about four years ago. I started piano lessons 18 months ago and bought a relatively inexpensive digital keyboard. I hate wearing headphones and while my wife is reasonably tolerant of listening to me play scales (!), I always practice with the volume turned way down so as not to annoy her. However, I noticed on those special occasions when she was out of the house (and I was therefore able to play at higher volumes) that most notes I played were followed by a faint noise like drinking glasses rattling. I assumed it was my relatively inexpensive keyboard and soldiered on. Oddly enough, I never noticed the same noise on either of the keyboards used for my lessons at the Crescendo Music Loft studio. However, that reinforced my belief that the noise was something rattling in my own keyboard.
Then for Christmas I got a new piano, one just expensive enough that when I heard that same glass rattling noise, I knew it wasn’t the keyboard and believe it or not that was the first time I thought it might be my hearing aids. Simple enough to check – just play the piano without wearing my hearing aids (duh!).
To make a long story short, two separate trips to my audiologist and the problem was solved. We were not able to fix it on the first visit because, surprisingly, my audiologist doesn’t have a keyboard in her office! Again, duh. So, on my iPad using a simple voice memos app, I recorded a slow play of each note on my piano all the way from bottom to top – and took that with me to the audiologist.
First of all, that brought the problem into better focus for me because there were some notes (mostly bass) that were not followed at all by the glass rattling sound. But from C4 up, the glass cupboard was shaking like crazy and there was some microphone feedback added at a few notes in the C2 range which I rarely play and therefore had never noticed.
I didn’t think a recording would be enough for the audiologist, but it worked very well. She has a lot of patience and was intrigued enough by the mystery to test my hearing repeatedly using the piano recording and adjusting the hearing aids until she had eliminated virtually all the extra noise.
A simple scale played on the piano is once again a beautiful thing to me.
My point here is that hearing aids are miniature computers that can easily be programmed by a trained audiologist. If you play the piano and wear hearing aids, listen carefully. You may not be hearing what you’re playing.
6 thoughts on “Playing Piano While Wearing Hearing Aids”
Brian, I don’t wear hearing aids but found this so interesting! And if I were a hearing-aid wearer I would want to know this for sure 🙂
Thanks. Let’s hope there are others out there in cyberspace that find it interesting and wander into the Crescendo Music Loft website!
Wow, I just got hearing aids and was severely disappointed in how all my keyboard patches sounded the first time I played with them in. I expected everything would sound great and I would hear everything I might have been missing. Wrong! It all sounded terrible. It made me really question what was real, until I discussed it with some other keyboard players. I have been back to the audiologist to make some adjustments, but I am mostly finding that I do better just turning them off, or way down when I am practicing or playing with the band. I do think I will try your tip about taking recorded piano notes the next time I have an appointment.
This is really interesting, Brian! I had not considered them as “tiny computers” before, but that’s a great way of looking at it.
Brian, I play classical piano and the hearing aids I am wearing now are Signia and I get feedback and noise and the notes are not true. I know this because I’ve had my piano tuned 3 times in one year, installed a humidifier in the piano and still the notes are ‘off key’. Is it my hearing aids ?? I spe======
Hi Kat. I completely empathize … and sympathize! I had awful feedback and some notes just didn’t sound right. I’m not an audiologist, but given my experience it certainly seems as if your hearing aids are the culprit. Jonathan (post above) suggested simply turning off your hearing aids which would certainly eliminate any feedback noise, but my hearing aids aren’t just for volume. They correct higher pitches for me. So, not wearing my hearing aids wasn’t ideal. I persisted with my audiologist, went to see her three times for tuning (my original post was after the first appointment, but I had to go back twice more for her to tweak the tuning) and eventually she (the audiologist) got my hearing aids very, very close to perfect – not perfect, but close. I still get a little feedback when I play a high C or F key. But otherwise, I’m satisfied that tuning them has much improved what I hear when I play the piano. My aids are programmable with different settings, so I have one setting that is just for piano.
So, bottom line – – I think your hearing aids could be tuned by a good, patient audiologist with improved results for you.