Best and Worst Musical Instruments for People with Hearing Loss

As a hearing impaired audiologist, and amateur musician, I often get asked by parents to help select a musical instrument for their child with hearing loss.  Although I have not seen a specific research study analyzing this exact question, we can, based on what we know about hearing loss, make an educated recommendation.

Lets first take a look at some fundamental components of music.  These include Pitch, Timbre, Harmonics, Loudness, and Rhythm.

Pitch is the frequency of the sound, measured in Hz.  For example, middle C is 256 Hz.  When we hear a melody we hear changes in pitch. In Western music, the smallest unit of pitch change is the semi-tone and there are 12 semitones in one Western octave.

Unfortunately, people with hearing loss have reduced ability to recognize pitch due to the damage in the hair cells of the cochlea.  In other words, some people with hearing loss cannot tell the difference between two pitches that are close together.  They need larger and larger differences between two pitches before they can tell that they are different.

Harmonics are a series of tones that are multiples of the fundamental frequency.  So if I pluck a middle C on a guitar or a piano, you will not only hear the fundamental frequency of 256 Hz, but also mathematical multiples of the middle C such as 512 Hz.  Again, this is a pitch based perception task and is hard for people with hearing loss.

Timbre is the unique combination the pitch, harmonics, the attack and release times of the note, that gives each musical instrument its unique colour and character.  Timbre is what tells us a guitar is a guitar or a violin is a violin.  This can also be hard for people with hearing loss.

Intensity of sound is measured in decibels.  We perceive intensity as “loudness”.  Of course when we have a hearing loss, soft sounds are inaudible, but hearing aids and cochlear implants do a pretty good job of allowing us to hear the soft sounds again.

Finally rhythm is the arrangement of sounds in time.  It is the beat or pulse of the music, and fortunately, people with hearing loss can still perceive rhythm quite well.

So based on what we know about hearing loss and about the components of music, it is clear that we will have greater difficulty with instruments that require good pitch perception abilities.  Below are two suggested list of instruments.  The first is a list of good instruments to select for people with hearing loss.  The second is a list of instruments that may be too challenging for the hearing impaired ear.  These lists are based on theory and some practical personal experiences, but are only recommendations.  If you, or your hearing impaired child, have your heart set on playing a particular instrument, by all means give it a try.

  1. Piano.  Piano is a good instrument for people with hearing loss for many reasons.  First, it is professionally tuned, so you do not need to tune it up every time you play.  If it is out of tune, then then the other instruments playing with the piano, must be tuned to the piano, and not the other way around.  Moreover, it is kind of like typing.  You see a symbol on the music staff, and you have to hit the corresponding key of the keyboard.  The hard part about piano is the same for all people, whether they have a hearing loss to not, which is learning to read multiple note music.
  2. Acoustic or Classical Guitar.  Guitar has frets on it, which precisely cuts the string at the correct point to give the correct note.  Daily tuning is required, but the easy solution here is to buy an electronic tuner.  I also think acoustic guitar is easier on the impaired ear than electric guitar.
  3. Fretted Electric Bass Guitar.  The fretted electric bass also has frets that precisely cut the string at the correct point.  Interestedly, this is why Leo Fender, the inventor of  the first electric bass, called it the  “Precision” or “P-Bass”.  It was the first bass with frets.  With bass, one only plays one note at a time, making this easier on the ears to perceive.  Also, it is also a rhythm based instrument which should be easier for people with hearing loss.  (Although some people just have no rhythm period).
  4. Electric Guitar.  I ranked electric guitar lower than acoustic guitar because when used with a lot of distortion, it is hard to hear the notes through all those harmonics.  If you plan to play electric guitar, stick with genres like indy or popular music, and stay away from heavy metal, or hard-core.  However, a plus of electric guitar is that you can get an amp with a headphone jack and plug your FM system into that for practicing.
  5. Digital Drums.  One of the problems with drums is that they can get really loud and overload the microphones of the hearing aids and cochlear implants.  So this is what is nice about a digital drum kit.  You get a volume control that allows you to set the volume at a perfect level, not too loud or too soft.  Moreover, all the digital drum kits I have seen have headphone jacks to plug your FM system in.
  6. Flute.  General the woodwind instruments can be good choices because there are lots of keys that allow you to make the correct note more precisely.
  7. Clarinet. Same as flute
  8. Saxophone.  Same

Challenging Instruments to Play with Hearing Loss.

  1. Violin.  Violin does not have any frets on it.  It requires one to listen carefully to make sure you are pressing on the correct part of the fingerboard.   However, I have heard of people with hearing loss still successfully playing this instrument.  It all depends on your hearing capabilities.
  2. Viola.  Again, same as a violin
  3. Cello.  Same issue as violin.
  4. Upright or Fretless Bass.  Same as violin
  5. Trombone.  Trombone shares some of the same characteristics of a fretless string instrument.  One must move the slide to the correct point to produce the proper pitch and therefore requires good pitch perception.  Not easy on the ears.
  6. Acoustic Drums.  The reason I put acoustic drums on the “Challenging” list is that this is a very loud instrument.  Very loud sounds can over-saturate the microphone or the analog/digital converter in a hearing aid or cochlear implant.  This will make things sound really distorted.  Interestingly, when I play in my band, I actually try to move as far away from the drums as possible.  I still keep the beat using the device I made.  See this previous posting.
  7. Trumpet. Trumpet uses a combination of three buttons or valves to partially produce its pitch.  The other influence is the shape of the lips.  Therefore, it does require a bit of hearing pitch perception to make the correct note.  I successfully played trumpet when I was in high school, but I only had a moderate loss of hearing at that time.
  8. French Horn.  Similar issues to a trumpet.  However, I found that the shape of the lips affected the pitch more in a French Horn than trumpet.  Not sure why, but the French Horn players in our high school band had a harder time keeping pitch than the trumpet section.

So there you have it.  If you are currently playing an instrument and you have a hearing loss, please share your experiences!

67 thoughts on “Best and Worst Musical Instruments for People with Hearing Loss

  1. Dear Peter.

    I beg to differ in the matter of bowed string instruments. If a person has enough hearing to perceive the “sympathetic ringing” of octaves on the open strings, or are willing to develop a kinethestic sense of the spacing between the notes, that will help them immensely in learning to play a bowed string instrument. Also, some hearing-impaired people have a high frequency loss, but have close to normal hearing in the lower frequencies so they can learn to play double bass or cello.


    • Thanks for the comments Wendy. I was hoping that you would provide some comments, as I know you are an experienced violin player.

      What you are saying makes sense. However, based on what we know about hearing loss, pitch perception is the biggest challenge. As such, some instruments require one to “listen” more than others and thus require better hearing. And, the more hearing loss you have, the harder it becomes to hear pitches correctly. For example, some cochlear implant users need two tones to be at least 5 semitones apart before they can even tell that the two notes are different! But certainly folks with milder losses can handle violin, cello, etc. Lastly, there are huge individual differences between people with hearing loss. So by all means, give it a try.


  2. Thank you, Peter. I’m going to copy some of this information and share it with my music teacher, help him understand some of my challenges. I try to explain but I don’t really understand what I’m missing, just know that I am. I started on a tenor saxophone about six years ago at age 54, already wearing two BTE aids. I’ve learned to “hear” based on what is available to me, but there’s always frustration trying to hear overtones, sub tones, intervals, chords. harmonics and really “knowing” my loudness factor. Lately I’ve added more time on keyboard and that helps a lot (at least I think so – hope so). Music is life’s balance. Anyway, thanks for this blog. / judy

    • I have not played a wind instrument since high school. How is it going for you? Are you progressing just as well as the so called “normal” hearing folks? The reason I ask is that I get a bit fixated on how my hearing loss affects my musical abilities, which it does no doubt. But one of my musical teacher’s and friends pointed out that I am progressing on my bass guitar better than most adults with “normal” hearing. So he asked if I could kindly shut up and just play. It was a huge compliment.

      • Peter, sorry for the long delay — I hadn’t realized you’d responded (I’m not computer competent – tried “following” but …) ANYWAY, I was doing better prior to my most recently updated hearing aids. The new aids have a wider range of frequencies enhanced — now I struggle with unwanted distortion and feedback, especially when playing with the community band. Been almost 10 months of trying to find a solution. Not there yet. So, that’s been a set back. BUT other than that, my learning progress is reasonable – the more I practice, the more I stay on track.

  3. Thanks for your article. The article is from the player’s point of view, but I’m wondering about from a listener’s point of view. Can you provide a list of which instruments people with hearing impairments can still hear? If an audience of hearing impaired listener’s was listening to an orchestra or band…would they (in general) more likely hear the tuba more than the violin for example? The trombone more than the flute, etc? Thanks.

    • Good question. This was partly covered in one of the articles I reviewed on CI’s and music perception. My opinion based in part on what I have read and what I have personally experienced is as follows. First, most people with hearing loss do hear low pitches better than high, so generally the low pitched sounds would be more audible But today’s hearing aids do a much better job at correcting for pitch. Moreover, each hearing loss is unique, so there will be individual variances on what instrument is easier to hear based on pitch.

      I think what is more important is how many instruments are being played and the harmonic complexity. For example, the impaired ear may hear a quartet of say violin, cello, flute and clarinet than a whole orchestra as the sound content is less complex. Similarly, listening to an folk or classical guitar is easier to hear and discern all the notes than an electric guitar with an amp set to high gain and thus having lots of harmonic overtones.

      I think simplicity is the key. In my band, I try to feel the drums more than hear them. I give myself a personal mix in which I focus on the singer and turn down the guitar player. I also prefer to play in a band with only one guitarist. I have simplified the sound as much as possible to make it easier on my ears.

  4. What would the best instrument to start playing when there is hearing only in one ear – the other ear is deaf?

    • Interesting question. Which ear is deaf and is the person right or left handed?

      Generally, I think any instrument would be fine except for violin or viola. Here are the only ones in which a single sided deafness would be an issue. Specifically, if the right ear is deaf and the person is right handed, then the sound must travel to the left ear to be heard. But the head is in the way of the sound. For low pitches, this does not matter as the wavelength of low frequencies is long enough to get around the head. But the high frequencies will suffer from what we call the “head shadow”.

      Hope this makes sense!

    • My unsolicited 2 cents for anyone (like me) who came to the conversation late: I’m an amateur musician (only 3 years in music school before I switched majors) and recently went deaf in my right ear as an adult. Because I effectively went from “stereo” to “mono,” I have a lot of trouble differentiating the volume of different instruments in an ensemble (the drums are just as loud as the strings which are just as loud as the singer). Because PLAYING in an ensemble would require you to blend with the other musicians, I would suggest starting with the instruments YOU can easily pick out while listening to a song. (If you’re playing flute and can’t hear yourself over the clarinet section, you’ll struggle with volume until you learn to trust your body more than your ear). If you choose not to wear CROS hearing aids (like me), it helps your tuning if the sound comes out directly in front of you or to your favored ear (flute on the left, acoustic guitar on the right) or if the sound is largely controlled by the instrument (like an electric guitar). I put down my saxophone and, for this reason, haven’t picked it back up. Instead, I’m now studying voice (and hope to study keyboards soon).

  5. I will have to look into CROS – first I have heard of it. My questions have been for my son not my self. Thanks for the information.

    • And after your son is fitted with a CROS hearing aid, see if he can get access to an FM system of some sort. My preferred ones are the ones from Comtek
      ( and the Companion Mic System from Etymotic Research. I like these because the receiver unit allows the music student to actually HEAR themselves play. Too many FM systems nowadays don’t have that option on the receiver unit.

      • Thanks Wendy for your input. Normally, I am all thumbs up for getting an FM system, but with a unilateral hearing loss, things are a bit different. First, your son definitely should consider getting the FM system for school. But the question now is do you combine it with the a CROS aid, or do you remove the CROS aid and utilize an open fit receiver on the right ear only. Both have been tried for school…I would discuss these options with your audiologist.

        As for the use of the FM system for music, again that depends on what you are trying to hear. The conductor? The Music Teacher? Or the other musicians? Or the instrument? I use an FM connected to the mixing board. See the post “Listen to the Music Live” for more details about this. If you are needing to hear the conductor or music teacher, then an FM transmitter will be worn by these individuals.

        Lastly, Wendy made a comment about needing to hear yourself play. Actually, that is easily achieved by pretty much any FM system by making sure the hearing instrument is set to FM + M rather than FM only. But in the case of a unilateral hearing loss, we will be using an open fit configuration on the good ear. FM + M is therefore moot. The issue in your son’s case is about overcoming the headshadow effect. This can be dealt with by either selecting a musical instrument in which headshadow is NOT an issue (eg guitar) or via the CROS microphone on the poor ear.

        Finally, the receivers Wendy suggested are body-worn devices. There are also ear-level devices that can be considered. Research all your options. Generally, you get greater compliance with FM system use in children with ear level devices rather than body worn.

        However, at this point in time, I think this too much gear to consider. I would
        1. Decide what instrument your son wants to play.
        2. If it is Violin or Viola, consider a CROS hearing aid.
        3. Talk to your audiologist about an FM system for the regular classroom to hear his teacher better. Determine if you want to add an FM receiver to the hearing aid or use an open fit style receiver to the better ear.
        4. Add FM technology to the music if needed.

  6. I have been deaf all my life to some degree or another I suppose. I have worn hearing aids as required by the job for over 30 now. Missed out some other good jobs too. I play at several instruments (Guitar, Piano, Blues Harp, Drums). I have always wanted to learn to play the banjo, but someone said you could not play the banjo if you play the guitar because they are so different. Another instrument that I would like to learn is a fiddle. However, a supervisor at work who is apparently very good with music told me that I would never be able to learn to play the fiddle since I am deaf & dumb. The reason he mentioned is similar to the issue regarding no frets & he said I could play the guitars because they have frets. Is this really true. I just wondered about it because it is not like I am constantly watching my fingers if I play the guitar or the Piano, I just play. I figured that being the case I can fell & hear to some degree the sound & thus make music. Is it tru though what he he stated as he seemed to present himself as being rather knowledgeable regarding the subject. Are there any other folks out there that have learned to play the Fiddle or Violin at a later age that are deaf or have a profound hearing loss? If so, what has your experience been like?

    • Tell me he didn’t really say that you are deaf and dumb. That is offensive…

      But on to the question about the fiddle. There are still lots of folks with hearing loss who play violin (fiddle). It is not impossible, just more challenging. The reason is that your frequency resolution is not as good when you have a hearing loss. This is even more difficult if you have a more severe loss.

      I think you should give it a go and see what it is like for yourself. This post was meant as a guideline…it was not intended to be “rules”. Let me know how you make out!


    • Hi Dave,

      Like you, I have lived with hearing loss for most of my life. I started learning violin in college and wore one hearing aid (while the other ear was profoundly deaf). I now have bilateral cochlear implants and take viola lessons.

      It’s not impossible to learn unfretted string instruments if you have a several to profound hearing loss. But it *is* hard work. There are notes that I hear well. There are notes I don’t hear well and need to learn their exact location using muscle memory. I do it because I love the sound of bowed strings and I love making music with my viola.

      I think the biggest challenge for hearing-impaired adults wanting to learning unfretted string instruments is finding a supportive teacher. Find a nice teacher who is wiling to work with you, and get an electronic tuner so you can understand the concept of intonation better. Another thing is to ask the teacher to put black duct tape on the fingerboard in the beginning so you develop a sense of the spacing between the fingers.

      You can tell your supervisor he’s wrong about the possibilty of hearing-impaired people learning bowed string instruments. I run a nonprofit for musicians with hearing loss (
      there are several folks who play unfretted string instruments in our group too.

      Hope this helps,

  7. I play classical guitar and just got hearing aids. I notice two things and wonder if they are normal:
    1. What sounds like a string buzz on the higher strings (even when played open)
    2. A short (say less than 0.5 seconds) bell-like ringing after each note.

    • Hi Charlie. Sorry for the delay in getting you a better response.

      There could be lots of possible reasons for what you are experiencing. First, you could have a damaged microphone in the hearing aid. From personal experience, I have noticed a damaged microphone first with higher musical notes. You could also have an excessively high compression ratio in the high frequencies. Or you could have inappropriate processing in general for music. Another possible reason could be the amount of hearing loss and therefore the amount of hair cell damage you have in those high pitches.

      What I would do is to first have your hearing aids checked to make sure the microphones are working properly. If your hearing aid has multiple programs, I would ask to have a music program added. With certain makes such as Phonak, adding the music program will automatically give you settings that are more appropriate for music. Because what is good for speech is not necessarily good for music.

      Hope this helps!

      • Hi and thanks. My aids are Phonak and I do have a “music” program. The short “bell-like” sound is gone- that was apparently caused by the “whistle block” not being completely off. The buzzing is still there though and I will pursue your other suggestions.

      • Yes, that makes sense. Many of these cool features to reduce feedback and enhance speech perception are actually detrimental to music perception. Hence the need for a music program. Please let me know about the other suggestions.

        By the way, I do recall one situation in which the patient heard buzzing on a guitar. Turns out the buzzing was real and required a set up on the instrument. Particular the truss rod and the string height. While you are doing that, see if the intonation needs adjusting. I do all my own guitar setups now, but I think you can pay a guitar shop $50 to do this work for you.

        Last but not least, buzzing may also be caused by incorrect left hand technique. Specifically, if your finger is too far from the fret, the strings may buzz. So in summary, the buzzing could be real and coming from the guitar and not the hearing aid.

      • Good points, but mine is a classical (nylon strung) guitar and does not have a truss rod (and I get the same results on several different guitars). Also it does not have any pickups or amplification. No doubt my technique can be improved, but the buzzing occurs on open strings too 😦

      • Hi Peter,

        I’m in my early forties and have sensineural hearing loss. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I am quite deafened in both ears. Without my hearing aids, I hear very little and would not be able to have a conversation without looking at someone. With my hearing aids, I struggle to hear the mid to high notes of violins, oboes, etc.I also have a loss on the bottom register of low range notes in both ears. Is sensineural deafness the same as noise induced hearing loss?

        Anyway, even though I have had progressive deafness nearly all my life, I love music and have always been involved in music through choral singing, choirs etc, up until a couple of years ago.
        After twenty years of miming, more than I sung,because I was finding it more and more difficult to pitch my voice I began to feel somewhat disallusioned and gave up music altogether. It was only when my son became involved in music at school that my love of music came back and I decided now would be a good time to consider learning a new instrument.

        Your site is absolutely fantastic and has given me lots of food for thought. Thank you. In the past I have tried clarinet and trumpet, but I dont think they were right. The difficulty was not learning to play the instrument or hear the instrument, it was the fact that when I was playing either instrument with accompanment, I could not hear the accompanment or any other instrument playing alongside me. I suppose this is always going to be a difficulty.

        I am now considering guitar or harp and wondered if you might have any thought on either?
        The harp is definitely the most expensive of the two and needs more space, but coming from a classical/background, it does have its attractions. I wondered if anyone reading your blogsite might have any experience on the harp?

        Finally, im not sure where you are based, but im guessing the US, but here in England there have been reports in the scientific magazines recently that through stem cell technologies a cure for deafness is getting closer and closer. Here’s hoping!!

        Any comments etc, would be really gratefully received. Many thanks, Susan

      • Hi Susan,

        Thanks for visiting my blog. Lots of questions!

        Well, first off, sensorineural refers to the site of lesion. In other words, where the in your auditory system the damage has occurred. So with sensorineural, that means there is damage to the cochlea, typically the hair cells in the cochlea. Noise induced refers to the reason the damage has occurred. Other reasons include infections or genetics.

        You could try to use an FM system whilst singing. If it is a choir, try keeping the hearing aids set to FM and Microphone and wear the FM around your own neck. This might help. I am staring to sing in my band, but I am not in a choir. I hear myself because I have an FM system attached to the mixing board. i think singing in a choir with many voices might be more challenging.

        With your clarinet or flute playing challenges, I completely understand how it would be hard to hear your all the instruments properly would be challenging. Again, I play in a band with only one other guitar, drums and one vocalist. I mix everything to my taste and then sending it to my ears via the FM system.

        I think either the harp or guitar would be good choices. Both can be tuned via a chromatic electronic tuner, taking some pressure off your impaired ears. But certainly guitar is much less expensive and much more portable. Why not try classical guitar?

        Finally, we share the same Queen…I live in Canada.

        Hope this helps!

      • Thanks peter, thats really helpful.

        I was only vaguely aware of the neck devices, but will definitely be giving one a try.

        I am going to have a trial on both the guitar and harp, will let you know how i go on.

        Thanks again, especially for replying so quickly.

        All the best, susan

  8. My 8 year old son has profound unilateral hearing loss — this is very recent. At 5, he was playing the chanter (bagpipes). He wants to play again. Is this something he will be able to play or even recommended? Thank you.

    • Hi Marilyn,

      The issues associated with a unilateral hearing loss are mainly related to the head shadow. That is, high frequencies cannot travel past his head from his deaf ear to the good ear. In addition, his ability to localize where sounds are coming from will be compromised.

      However, for playing the bagpipes, I cannot see this as being a problem. His pitch perception in his good ear should remain unaffected so he should be able to still tune his drones and play in the correct pitch.

      Does he play in a piper band? If so, you may wish to ensure the other members of the band are towards his good ear so he can hear what they are doing. So for example, if his left ear is deaf, then have him stand on the left side of the band so his right (good) ear is towards the band members. Flip this around of course if he is deaf in his right ear.

      Lastly, consider getting a CROS hearing aid to overcome the head shadow issues. He will also need an FM system in school.

      • Thank you so much for your reply. He is not in a band — he isn’t there yet but I will definitely keep that in mind if he gets that far. His audiologist and ENT said that he doesn’t have enough hearing/clarity left in his ear for a hearing aid.

      • That makes sense to not put a hearing aid in the affected ear if there is not enough hearing. But we still need to make sure he can hear properly, especially in a challenging listening environment such as a classroom.

        There are a whole bunch of articles on the internet about the effects of unilateral hearing loss in children. Here is just one article from 2004:

        Looking at the management section, here is a quote:

        “A few small studies have addressed the issue of which form of amplification is preferred in children with UHL. Kenworthy et al examined the use of CROS aids or FM systems in 6 children with UHL between 56 and greater than 120 dB hearing level to compare speech recognition scores in noise. They found that only the FM system produced high speech recognition scores in all the listening conditions tested (monaural direct, monaural indirect, and omnidirectional). Updike also examined the use of conventional hearing aids, CROS aids, or FM systems in 6 children with UHL to compare speech recognition scores in quiet and in noise. With the conventional hearing aid and CROS aid, speech recognition decreased in noise. Only use of the FM systems resulted in improved speech recognition scores in both quiet and noise.”

        So, when your son goes to school an FM system is highly recommended. Talk to your audiologist about this.

      • Hi, thank you for all your replies. We have a temporary fm system in the classroom. We are awaiting for the referral from the audiologist to get one permanently assigned to him. His intinerant hearing teacher and classroom teacher have been amazing.

      • Hi Peter, I know that this is totally unrelated but I’m not sure where to go. Do you have any information or somewhere you can send me to get more information on the disability tax credit? Our doctor says that my son does not qualify with unilateral hearing loss because he can still hear. While I recognize that he is fortunate to only have lost the hearing in one ear, the impact of this hearing loss will impact on his future dramatically and has certainly limited his career options and the necessity of further education will be even more important for him. The hearing society could not help me as it is unilateral hearing loss. Thank you for any advice you are able to provide.

      • Hi Marilyn,

        I am not an expert on this. But I did find an interesting position paper written by the Canadian Hearing Society on the Disability Tax Credit and Hearing Loss. Problem is the regulations are ambiguous and can lead to inconsistencies. Moreover, we live in a noisy world…we rarely get to communicate in a perfectly quiet setting. Read more about it in this link here:

      • Thank you for your reply. I read the response from the CHA. I am going to talk to the audiologist but think this is a fight that may take years!

  9. Thank you for the info, I would like to share little bit about me. I am partly deaf all my life. until I started to wear cochlear implant about one year now. I’m a flute player since 2002 and ever since the cochlear implant came to my life. I won’t trade for anything. I play flute since and still learning new technique. I am a music lover. Currently Perform several place. Please feel free leave comment. Thank you

  10. I have hearing loss in both ears and wear hearing aids to follow along with conversation etc. I came back to the guitar after the hearing loss, and found accoustic annoying to deal with as the sound was too close to my head, resulting in a rather cloudy sense to my hearing after a while, though such an effect was temporary. For that reason, and because I like spacey effects, I switched to electric so as to separate the sound source from my head. That seems to work.

    What I was wondering, though, is if by playing guitar, or any instrument. . or even singing in a choir, am I slowly further damaging my hearing. If so, what would be the best way to minimize or prohibit such damage? What about over-ear or in-ear monitors? Do they do any good in this regard or are they actually worse?

    thanks. And thanks for this site. It is really encouraging and helpful to find!

    • Sorry for the delay in responding…I have been quite busy with work and travel.

      Your hearing instruments should be set to a level that will not exceed recommended levels. However, it also depends on the amount of venting in your ear mold or hearing aid. Venting is needed for certain configurations of hearing loss. But it may let in some loud noise.

      You may wish to limit both the time or intensity of exposure. For example, most safety experts agree that the maximum time that one should be exposed to 90 dB(A) of sound is 8 hours. If the noise level goes up to 93 dB(A), then the exposure time should be half i.e. 4 hours. For 96 dB(A), the allowable time limit is 2 hours a day, and so on. Some use a 5 dB exchange rate, but the 3 dB excahnge rate seems to be safer. See this link for more information:

      So turn down the volume and reduce your exposure time.

  11. Thank you for this excellent blog! I became totally deaf in my right ear 2 years ago. I play the viola and sit in the back of the section. I appreciate the advice regarding sitting where my good ear can hear the section, thank you! My question is regarding how to minimize the sound of the percussion and brass that are directly behind me. I have the cros system and I am combining it with ear plugs for the totally deaf left ear (which gives me sound induced vertigo on occasion). The brass and timpani were so active and loud (William Tell Overture) that I couldn’t even think by the end of my last rehearsal. Any suggested coping strategies? Music setting on my Phonaks? Thank you!

    • Hi Tim,

      Sorry for the delay in responding to your question.

      I completely understand your issue. This has been my problem as well when I plain the band. All I could hear was the percussion and not much else.

      My situation is different from yours. I am playing in a rock band with only 4 members; vocals, guitar, bass and drums. All except the drums go through a PA system. By adding an FM system to the mixing board, I can make myself a personal mix that allows me to hear above the drums (my hearing aids are net to FM only, my CI is set to a hinge mix ratio).

      You do not have the luxury of PA support which would allow you to make a personal mix for yourself.

      Here are some possible solutions.

      1. Move away from the percussion as far as possible.

      2. Add a plexiglass wall between you and the percussionist. I have seen this used many times in worship bands in churches.

      3. See if adding a directional microphone program helps. It may reduce the sound of the percussion coming from behind you. However, the sound quality of music via a directional mic may not be ideal.

  12. Hi

    My eight year old daughter has mild to moderate hearing loss in her left ear and severe to profound loss in her right ear. She has Phonac hearing aids in both ears and uses sound field at school.

    She is a Suzuki violin player Book 2 (almost book 3 level). Her teacher is keen for her to play with the CD from the Suzuki book. Given that her best ear is resting on the violin she is able to hear/feel the instrument quite well but finds background music eg the CD difficult to hear above her own instrument and can’t keep to the correct timing.
    Is there any thing we can do to help (when she plays in a group she uses visual cues to assist with timing).

    Cheers and thanks
    Paul Kittel

    • Hi Paul,

      Sorry for the delay in responding.

      What you could try is add an FM or the new Roger system to her hearing aids. Set the hearing aids to be in an FM + M program. This means that she will hear from both the FM (or Roger) system, as well as her hearing aids.

      Now plug the FM/Roger system into the headphone jack of the CD player. This way she will be better able to hear both the violin and the CD.

      If the instructor also needs to hear the CD, then you might have to add a splitter to the headphone jack. This will allow you to plug the FM/Roger system and some accessory speakers into the headphone jack.

      I hope this helps!

      • Hi Peter

        Thanks for that.

        We will look into this further we our audiologist

        Cheers Paul

  13. I had my hearing until I turned 16 and then I lost it permanently. I started to learn the violin before my hearing loss. Even after losing my hearing I still played. It was difficult at first learning after losing my hearing but if you’re dedicated it’s not going to be too hard. Just be patient.

  14. Hi Peter! My name is Shernette Anthony, I’m a sound major at University of Texas at Dallas.I love your website. I am currently working on a project with involves those with hearing loss and would like to inform more people about it here at the school. I was wondering may I have your permission to use some of your content from the website. I would also like to chat with you online if possible.

  15. Pingback: Musical Instruments for the Hearing Impaired – Ludeal Musique

  16. Hi Peter,
    Thank you for all of the information in this article, it is very insightful and helpful! I was just wondering where you stood on the idea of a harp as it has similarities to a piano, but is still a string instrument? Thank you for your thoughts!

    • Great question. I wish I knew some harp players. From what I read, the strings are arranged like a piano and pedals are used to make a note sharp or flat. It seems to me that piano provides more visual feedback…you can see the keys quite easily. And you can use an electronic tuner for a harp which is easier to do when your hearing is not great.

  17. Hello Peter
    I am an audiologist and have a patient who is struggling to play a trumpet with a bone anchored hearing aid. Any advice would be welcome. I was thinking that maybe some physical affects of the trumpet reverberating and how the Baha interacts maybe the root cause of the problems they have with thinking they are out of tune when they are not. Thanks Tracy

    • That’s a good question Tracy. Usually people who have Bone Anchored Hearing Aids typically have normal or near normal cochleae. So their pitch perception should be pretty good. I am wondering if the problem is related to the microphone on the BAHA. Maybe its damaged, or it cannot handle the loud inputs from the trumpet. Marshall Chasin, an audiologist colleague of mine, has suggested placing a piece of scotch tape over the hearing aid microphone to reduce the loudness. Perhaps this might work for the BAHA as well. Or, maybe the student is just not suited to trumpet. It requires your mouth to do a lot of work to get the right pitch. Perhaps a different instrument may be more appropriate.

      • Hello Peter. Thank you for your reply. Many people with bahas now also have cochlea damage, the aids have come a long way in the last few years. The aid is new, but I also found Marshall Chasin’s articles when I found your blog and his info describing the limitations of aids with the loudness of musical instruments sounds like the cause. He has suggested the tape, which I am going to try. Tracy

    • Peter, thank you for respond, by the way, I have been volunteer as concert band upstate wind symphonic this is my 3rd years of series I play for them with all woodwinds…when I first start I was fear that I will be off not only that I have professional flutist who she help me going to through talk the process of learning new piece and intake many hours to be what I’m today… many cochlear inplant have different backgrounds or their experiences of using instrumental, my conductor is aware of my hearing loss. So to answers of all the questions to have good feedback… for those who wanted to pursued go for it. Nothing stopping them. For people a normal hearing pick faster for those who wore cochlear inplant. As for me I’m been in Many Church/ Percussionist/ concert as woodwind. I prefer to let them know that I wear cochlear inplant then hid yourself in bilingual speaker and sign language as well. People would be surprised all the talents I have and proud to be one.

  18. Pingback: Peter Stelmacovich – Audiologist – Seeing Sounds & Feeling Frequency

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