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music, brainwaves, hearing aids

Paul D Dybala dybala at utdallas.edu
Tue May 6 15:28:35 EST 1997

Here is some information for you
Curt Siffert (siffert at shell.) wrote:

> 1)  I am a musician that has had several ear surgeries, with hearing
>     loss at various frequencies.  I don't have any concept of how I 
>     might be hearing music differently than those with normal hearing.
>     Are there audiologists that also study music that might be able 
>     to help me understand this subject?

You are in fact hearing EVERYthing different from everyone else.
Having a hearing loss at some frequencies but not others is not 
just a matter of loss  of audibility at those frequencies (sounds are not
loud enough at those frequencies)  but persons with hearing loss also have 
problems of reduced temporal and frequency resolution, even when the
sounds are loud enough for you to hear them.

> 2)  I was at a recording studio and we were playing with the mixer and
>     equalizer that brings out different frequencies.  Is it possible that
>     bringing out certain frequencies through a mixer could perfectly 
>     recreate what it would be like to hear something normally?  Like
>     if I brought in an audiolist's graph of my hearing and we raised 
>     the levels of certain frequencies the same level that they are 
>     below average in my hearing, would I be hearing something "normally"?
>     Or is that impossible, like expecting a film projectionist to counter
>     my near-sightedness by making the movie out of focus "in the other
>     direction"?

The answer to this question is similar to the first.  Yes, you could use
a mixer to restore audibility to those frequencies at which you have a
hearing loss.  In fact that is basically what a hearing aid does.
Amplify sounds up to a level at which you can hear them.  Most 
use frequency shaping to match the amount of loss in different
frequency bands.  

Again though,  you would not be restored to normal hearing.   Unlike 
with a vision problem (in which the vision organ is not dammaged)
most hearing losses are sensorineural in that, damage has occured in the
hair cells of the hearing organ.  So while making sounds louder will
dramatically improve your ability to hear it will not be perfect.

> 3)  If that is possible, are there hearing aids that concentrate in only
>     raising certain frequencies rather than everything all at once?  My
>     high frequencies are bad, but my speaking frequencies are okay, so 
>     that means (I think) that I don't hear musical harmonics very well,
>     and might only hear the fundamentals (again, I don't know for sure
>     and would love clarification).  I'm imagining that I missing a lot
>     of the richness of music.  I wouldn't want a hearing aid that just
>     plain old raises the volume of everything.

The newer digitally programmable and completely digital have the most
flexibility in their frequency shaping capability.  Oticon's digifocus
for one has 7 bands.  Look up an audiologist in the yellow pages
who dispenses these instruments to get more information.

> 4)  Has there been any research linking audiology to neurology; how 
>     sensitivity to certain frequencies might be responsible for heightened
>     brainwave activity in certain frequencies?  For instance, I have 
>     extremely high activity in the alpha range, 8-13 Hz, I believe.
>     It's very difficult because it means I have extreme difficulty 
>     with mental focus and anxiety (I know this might sound weird, but
>     that's about the size of it).  EEG Biofeedback is helping somewhat,
>     but until now, I haven't explored the possibility that my hearing 
>     problems link into this.  Is it possible that addressing my
>     hearing problems might help clear some of this up?  Has there 
>     been research done in this area or are there resources I can 
>     check to do my own?

Overall brain activity has not been linked to this but various
animal studies on the auditory pathways of animals have shown that parts
of the brain that are not getting stimulated due to hearing loss
will retune themselves to a frequency that is getting some stimulation.
A sort of use it or lose it paradigm.

You can find general information on audiologists
and where to find them at 

On my home page I have an audiology section that contains a paper
that I wrote on the brain retuning stuff.

> Thanks for any assistance.
> Curt Siffert

Thank you for your support,
Paul Dybala M.S.
dybala at utdallas.edu

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