Cue the Music

By Yishane Lee

Along with wrapping up holiday gifts, we are also busy wrapping up the Winter 2014 issue of Hearing Health, available in January.

Our cover story is about legendary guitar great Les Paul, and the launch of the Les Paul Ambassadors. The Les Paul Ambassadors are an exciting partnership between HHF and the Les Paul Foundation to support our search for a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus as well as educate consumers about this topic. We’re thrilled that Lou Pallo, a longtime friend of Les Paul and a talented musician in his own right, is our first Ambassador helping to spread the word.

Les Paul, who had a hearing loss and tinnitus, is the inspiration for our special music issue. Enjoying music can be a challenge for people who have a hearing loss, partly because hearing aids favor the voice of one speaker above background noise, and what is music if not many speakers and a lot of so-called noise?

As staff writer and audiologist Barbara Jenkins more eloquently explains:

“Hearing aids have been developed to maximize clarity of speech understanding, but to do this they must reduce non-speech sounds—which are the very elements that enhance musical or environmental sounds. Even though you may hear music better with your hearing aids than without them, most speech enhancement programs by necessity end up distorting music.”

Jenkins has plenty of helpful tips for optimizing your hearing aids to enjoy listening to music, and beyond merely engaging the music program in your hearing aid. Look for “The Sounds of Music” in our Winter issue.

You have probably heard of the cochlear implant (CI), but what about the hybrid CI? It can also help users enjoy music. The hybrid makes use of—and aims to preserve—residual hearing. Particularly in age-related hearing loss, residual hearing is usually in the low frequencies. So by combining this residual, low frequency hearing with high frequency hearing that has been amplified by the implant, the hybrid CI user has a fuller, rounder hearing experience.

Look for our story about hybrid CIs, written by Lina Reiss, Ph.D., a 2013 Second-Year HHF Emerging Research Grant (ERG) recipient, along with an ERG alumnus, Christopher Turner, Ph.D., who has published more than 20 papers on the topic. In addition, researchers at the University of Washington recently announced a new harmonic algorithm that allows CI users to better hear music, which we will detail in “Hearing Headlines.”

Finally, we have contributions from musicians who have hearing loss. Wendy Cheng started an association of amateur musicians with hearing loss, now 10 years old, and Nancy Williams is a member of HHF’s board and a pianist who has performed at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Underscoring all these stories is the work our Hearing Restoration Project, which is working toward a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus—and the ability to once again enjoy music to its fullest.

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