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Hearing Loss

I was approached by a choral friend of mine last week and he talked about losing his hearing.  We have been friends since our college days.  He said he will probably have to get a hearing aid.  I was not sure why he was telling me all this except perhaps to see my reaction.  Honestly, I did not know what to say.  Does anyone out there know of a choral director that wears/uses a hearing aid?  As we talked more, he did ask me one question.  He said he wondered how his singers would react to him wearing a hearing aid. I said I am not sure it is something that needs to be discussed with them but on second thought he may have a valid question.  Your thoughts.
on November 30, 2015 7:52am
My spouse is an Otolaryngologist.  We also have a hearing aid business (with an audiologist staff) as part of his private practice. So I will tell you YES there are plenty of choral directors (and singers) who wear hearing aids. It's important for your audiologist to know someone is a musician and a choral director (or singer or orchestra conductor)before discussing what type of hearing aid is needed because there are plenty of different types, some better than others.
Maybe he just needed to tell someone he trusted with the news he needs a HA....I'm sure it was difficult for him to decide to get one. As to telling his singers he has a HA......I would let them ask about it....they will probably be relieved he has one!
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on December 1, 2015 9:32am
I agree with Marie. Reassure your friend that it's going to be OK.
My mother, at 83, still has 24 private piano and voice students. She got her hearing aids almost 2 years ago. She won't go without them now. And yes, all of us were relieved when she got them.

This was not her first try. A few years ago she went to a hearing aid store. They sell hearing aids, and recommend a type on questionable grounds. She hated the ones she got, and soon took them back.
The next time we went to an audiologist. He gave her a complete battery of tests, showed her the results on a graph, and showed her which sounds she most often mis-heard. She got a completely different type of aid, and very quickly adapted. The kicker - it was considerably less expensive to go to him than the store. His exam was covered by medical, and the device she got was about $1000 less than the store price.
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on December 1, 2015 12:48pm
 It can work with the right circumstances. The founder of our group had a severe hearing loss. As a result he encouraged members to let him know if they heard something he didn't which needed correction.  He moved away after five years, but his  attitude  created a open,  cooperative culture  where the singers feel free to make constructive comments. 15 years later our volunteer  community group is still going strong, and the conductor is part of the group, rather than a dictator. Unlike many small groups, it has survived because there is amazing caring and respect for each other--no politics, no prima donnas.  Since we are a  small chamber group,mostly a cappella, we cannot take on big works, but are able to perform challenging repertoire. 
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on December 2, 2015 7:53pm
I wear good digital hearing aids.  My audiologist reassured me that she treated many individuals who were musicians, including professional classical musicians.  She flattened the response curve on the channel for music throughout my hearing range, including frequencies below the 5K (5,000 cycles per second) hearing range, which was already better than normal.  She extended the flat audio curve to above 10K, with a device icon on the computer that looks like an equalizer on your hi-fi at home.  In short, it is a better hearing aid than one that simply increases the volume of incoming signals. I sang better because, internally, I heard the high frequencies better.  In my studio, I hear noise better in each student's voice.  On treating people referred to me by physicians, I can identify strategies for helping restore their voices faster.
It took me at least several months to acclimate to the new perceptions.  When I went to a community symphony concert, I could hear each instrument in each section individually:  I didn't hear the section, and if I looked at each player, I could tell how they played within the section.  I eventually got back to hearing more normally, but if I concentrate I can still hear each player.  After week two of rehaersals with the church choir that I direct, I told them about the hearing aids.  I also discussed my insecurity with hearing too much, and that if they got uncomfortable, please tell me.  Instead, they loved the fact that it had become more challenging and that they could sense the improvement in their own singing!
Everyone directs and rehearses differently.  But my own teaching in my studio has improved, my own perception of music is back to the freshness it once enjoyed.  They church choir has a more vital sound, stays in tune, and sounds much younger than its mostly-retired membership.  I am most happy that I told everyone.
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on December 3, 2015 4:32am
This is my 31st year as a high school choral director.  5 years ago I had my hearing tested at the urging of my frustrated family.  Tests showed moderate loss in certain ranges.  Vanity and finances have kept me from pulling the trigger and getting hearing aids.  It was becoming President-elect of Missouri Choral Directors Association that convinced me to move forward with getting hearing aids as I was not able to take in much of what was being said in board meetings that I attended.  In June, just before taking the presidency, I got hearing aids and it has made a huge difference in ALL aspects of my life.  At home, in meetings, in church, and in the choral rehearsal.
Note:  you DO NOT have to spend a huge amount of money.  My audiologist showed me (and I almost bought) top of the line hearing aids that are paired (bluetooth) with my iphone for $6400.   My wife did some poking around on the internet and we ultimately purchased THE SAME DEVICE from Costco for $1799.  Unbelievable.
I am very proud of my devices.  I am relieved to be able to hear my family and students speak.  I adjusted quickly to the hearing aids in my choral rehearsal. The modern technology is fantastic.  Contact me directly if you have questions about hearing aids as a choral director    williamtgrega(a)
on December 4, 2015 3:02am
I am a fully functioning conductor, now having the time of my life because of my wonderful hearing aid.  I struggled for a few years hoping that my hearing loss was temporary.  Two years ago - I acquired a hearing on the NHS (UK's free medical care) and my life was transformed but it was a problem in terms of the quality of sound and also, because the hearing aid (the microphone) was placed outside the ear, it was tricky wearing headphones in recording sessions and rock concerts.  In April this year, I went to a private hearing clinic and was fitted with a sophisticated 'in ear' hearing aid.  Since then, I am now hearing as I did when I was 20!  I URGE any musician who has any hearing loss to go down this route.  It is not cheap but it is the best investment you can make as a musician. Now I savour every rehearsal, session, concert etc... and my only regret is that I didn't do it years earlier.
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on December 4, 2015 6:20am
If you have trouble seeing clearly, you wear glasses.  If you have trouble hearing clearly, you wear hearing aids.  It's that simple.
OK, maybe not that simple, but years ago glasses were thick and heavy, so people didn't get them until they had serious vison problems.  Now no one thinks anything about getting glasses, contacts, or laser surgery to improve vision even just a bit.  The same advances are being made in hearing aids: They once were large, cumbersome objects worn by people who were nearly deaf; now they are small and lightweight.  Wearing them doesn't mean you are deaf; it just means you want to improve and sharpen your hearing.
When these discussions come up, I remember about a student from years ago who struggled to read and was in 'special ed' until high school, when the right teacher and opthamologist figured out he had a simple vision problem.  With the right glasses, he suddenly became one of the smartest kids in the school.  He went from being a self-concious wall flower to being a confident, outgoing leader.
I wonder how many of our students actually have hearing problems that are undetected?  In fact, maybe I ought to go get my hearing tested.  Maybe that will explain why those kids sound that way...
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