It goes without saying that the subject of music and how to address the needs of the musician whether they are an amateur, professional, or just a dabbler has been a focus of Bernafon audiologists for quite some time. Just 15 years ago music was not a mainstream subject and was not a priority within the rest of the hearing aid industry. The thought was: ´Why focus on music when we need to take care of fundamental issues like understanding speech in noisy environments?´ While speech in noise is an important priority, as it is the primary reason why clients pursue amplification, music also deserves attention as it is an important priority for many people.
Music as a priority
The Canadian audiologist Marshall Chasin first raised the issue of addressing the needs of musicians and music lovers using hearing instruments (Chasin, 2003). In the past, it was sometimes assumed, incorrectly I should point out, that hearing instruments were limited by the transducers (microphones and receivers) that were used. It was discovered that, one of the first issues that needed to be addressed was the dynamic range limitation applied to the front end of the amplification process, before the conversion from the analog domain to the digital domain (Chasin, 2003; Chasin and Russo, 2004). Bernafon published our work on the topic in 2010 (Hockley et al., 2010) where our solution to address this issue was described. Now music is more of a mainstream subject within our field and is discussed at many meetings and conferences. There are now several options that the clinician can use with music enthusiasts and musicians which includes Bernafon’s own work on fitting hearing instruments to musicians (Lesimple et al., 2020). Regardless of the technology, an important detail is the dialog between the client and the hearing care professional (HCP) with the goal of adjusting the hearing instrument to the client's individual needs when it comes to music. This dialog between the client and the HCP is, after all, a fundamental part of audiological care.
An audiologist for musicians
The importance of this issue is emphasized in the latest book by Marshall Chasin (Chasin, 2022). In this book, Chasin combines many of the latest findings in the research literature along with clinical insights into fitting hearing instruments to musicians and music lovers. In the foreword to this book, Mead Killion describes Marshall Chasin as the “go-to audiologist by numerous practicing musicians” (Chasin, 2022, p. vii).
If you can fit for speech – you can fit for music!
Even though the book is only 146 pages it is packed with useful information, interesting analogies, illustrations, and even ideas for future research projects. It also contains audio files that the reader can listen to in order to better understand the concepts mentioned. I was honored to be asked by Plural Publishing Inc. to read an earlier version of the book and therefore I had the privilege of seeing how this work came together.
The book opens with a short chapter about wavelength acoustics for musical instruments. This chapter describes the concept of acoustical tubes which includes many musical instruments as well as the human vocal tract and the external ear. The explanation prepares the reader for the following chapter in which Chasin discusses the similarities and differences between speech and music on a more detailed level, concentrating especially on the acoustical characteristics that are important for hearing instruments. This second chapter, along with the rest of the book, is directed at the HCP who has already learned a lot about the acoustics of speech but perhaps has not considered music. Chasin points out that if someone is familiar with speech then they should easily be able to understand the acoustics of music – perhaps they just don’t realize it yet. The third chapter is lengthier and moves on to summarize and review the research and clinical literature on music and hearing instruments.
Chasin discusses several aspects of hearing instrument technology such as frequency lowering algorithms, which may be advantageous for perceiving speech for many clients but might create some perceptual issues for music. This chapter covers a lot of ground in an incredibly efficient way. The knowledge that is acquired in the third chapter provides a good basis for the fourth chapter which addresses clinical approaches to fitting hearing instruments for music. Up to this point, the book has been very interesting, and this fourth chapter gives the reader practical suggestions about how they can apply the information covered so far when fitting hearing instruments and accessories.
Easy to understand and apply
The final fifth chapter, perhaps controversially, raises questions about a return to previously used technology for music and includes a wish list from musicians for potential future developments in the field. Three appendices then follow the fifth chapter. The first appendix is a useful list of musical notes and their fundamental frequencies which the HCP will find valuable when discussing a musician’s comments about music. The second appendix includes a list of potential research projects. The third appendix is a description of the audio files that can be accessed on the publisher’s website that audibly illustrate topics discussed in the book.
As I have alluded to earlier in this blog post, Chasin’s book covers a lot of ground. However, it avoids the use of complex terminology in order to increase the readability and accessibility of the material. This is key, as reading this book does not require the busy HCP to spend a lot of time trying to understand the material. It is possible to read this book quickly and actively apply what has been learned. So, if music and hearing instruments is a topic of interest, I recommend reading Marshall Chasin’s book.
Chasin, M. (2003). Music and hearing aids. The Hearing Journal, 56(7), 36-41.
Chasin, M. (2022). Music and Hearing Aids: A Clinical Approach. Plural Publishing San Diego CA.
Chasin, M. and Russo, F. A. (2004). Hearing aids and music. Trends in Amplification, 8(2), 35-47.
Hockley, N.S., Bahlmann, F. & Chasin, M. (2010). Programming hearing instruments to make live music more enjoyable. The Hearing Journal, 63(9), 30 – 38.
Lesimple, C, Simon, B. & Tantau, J. (2020). Fitting hearing aids with musicians. Bernafon WhitePaper.