If you haven’t already, check out the Oscar-nominated movie, Sound of Metal, the story of an alt-rock drummer who suddenly suffers catastrophic hearing loss. Desperate to keep working, he risks everything to get some cochlear implants. But when he does, they don’t work the way he’d hoped. Sound comes through unnaturally tinny and with a sharp metallic bite, hence the title fo the film. Our hero has to reconcile with his lot and–SPOILER ALERT–he turns out to be okay with that.
So many musicians and music fans end up with some kind of hearing impairment because of exposure to high sound pressure levels. Anything above 100 dB for extended periods will do serious damage to the stereocilia, the little hairs in your inner ear that convert the physical energy of sound waves into electrical impulses for the brain.
You know that underwater/blocked feeling you get after a really loud concert? That’s the effect of damaged or destroyed stereocilia. That feeling and the hearing impairment that comes along with it lasts until those microscopic hairs can grow back. After a while, though, they can stop regenerating. At that point, you may need some sound reinforcement for your ears.
I’m lucky in that I was made paranoid about my hearing after an excruciating, painfully loud club show (I think it was Anvil) in my 20s. It took close to a week for my ears to return to something resembling normal. The whole experience so frightening that I’ve been using hearing protection ever since. I also run my headphones at a safe volume and regularly take silence breaks. Hey, if I can’t hear probably, I’m out of job.
But there are millions of other people who experience hearing loss and need help. They may have tried various hearing aids but are unhappy with their performance (audio latency is a problem) or the overall audio experience (tinny, unsatisfying sound).
Widex is a different kind of hearing aid device. Somehow, they’ve shrunk some electronic voodoo into their units that pretty much eliminates any sort of latency. And when it comes to music, they’re shockingly good.
My hearing is still quite good. I can hear a tap dripping in the basement or the slightest bit of distortion in an audio recording, so I’m not a hearing aid customer yet. But when I tried out a pair of aids called the Widex Moment, I was stunned at what I heard.
Wait. Back up. Let’s start from the beginning.
Widex hearing devices come in a charging pack like this. Just drop them into the slots and when they’re ready, the LEDs will turn green. Battery life runs somewhere around 18 hours.
Here’s a better look at the individual units.
An audiologist explained the design of the little buds that go in the ear canal. Not only are they light, but they don’t require a super-tight seal. In fact, they have a special open-air design that somehow negates the unpleasant effects of regular hearing aids. After about 30 seconds, I didn’t even realize I had them in.
Once calibrated, there’s another Widex app that allows you to call up custom listening profiles on your iOS or Android device.=
Each profile modifies the processing power in the hearing aid units in specific ways. See the musical note? That’s the tuning for music listening (which, in turn, has been tweaked by the fitting done by the audiologist.)
Okay, so how good could the music setting me? I tested it out using Beth Orton’s “Stolen Car,” a wonderfully delicate recording with some tricky dynamics. The music was played through a Bose 3.1 system that I have connected to my computer using a digital-to-analogue converter.
Within just a few seconds, I was stunned by what I heard. The steel strings on the acoustic guitar were sharper, her voice warmer, the subtleties of the bassline apparent. Holy crap, I thought. Is this what I’m missing?
I tried other songs, including some Pink Floyd recordings played from a 192 kbps digital recording through my NAD system and PSB T3 speakers. Jeezus. It was almost like listening to the songs for the first time. Again, I don’t need hearing assistance, but I’m tempted to use these things just to listen to music.
I fiddled with some of the other presets. Funny how the audio from my TV isn’t muffled anymore.
Listen, no one wants to admit that they have hearing loss and may need a bit of a boost. And yeah, you probably think that hearing aids are just for old people. Believe me when I tell you, though, that once you get over that, the Widex units will turn back the clock to a time when you had all your stereocilia. No wonder Widex is endorsed by guitarist Steve Lukather, the guitarist with Toto and a crack studio musician. He makes his living from his ears and he’s a big fan.
Damn, I gotta get this out to my mom. She’s turning 85 this year and every sentence from her starts with “Hey? What?” I got a feeling that a pair of Widex will fix things.
Learn more here.
*This is a sponsored post brought to you by Widex.*