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Hearing aids for hearing bird calls

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Old Thursday 7th November 2019, 20:53   #1
miketaylor
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Hearing aids for hearing bird calls

Hi all,

I'd like to find out about people's experience with the use of hearing aids to help hear high pitched bird calls.

In recent years I've noticed that I can no longer hear some higher pitched bird calls, e.g. Redwings' 'seep' calls when flying overhead, and I can't hear crickets any more (in the UK). I'm aware that hearing at higher frequencies can deteriorate as one gets older, but it's a bit frustrating as I used to be much sharper at detecting birds on call than by sight (e.g. detecting a Red-throated Pipit on Scilly by its call and then seeing it drop into a field).

I got my hearing checked out by the NHS and found out that I had "mild to moderate" hearing loss above 5kHz, and "borderline" hearing loss in the normal speech range. They said I may benefit from hearing aids, so they gave me Oticon Synergy Sense BTE digital hearing aids. I'm told that these are very good, especially as they are free, but I keep wondering about the top of the range hearing aids, which could cost up to £5k for a pair. They have improved my hearing, but I still find problems hearing bird calls. I think the cutoff frequency is a bit higher, but now some of the calls sound a bit different from before (i.e. I'm now hearing the lower frequency part of the call, rather than not hearing it at all before).

I'm sure many other birders must have similar issues - especially as most seem to be of my generation (60+)!

It would be good to hear of other people's experience...

Mike
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Old Friday 8th November 2019, 03:15   #2
etudiant
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It may have changed in the last few years, but as of about 2015, the frequency range of even top tier hearing aids here in the US was only up to 8000Hz. That limits their coverage for much of the repertory of our passerines, especially our warblers.
I've read that some birders have been pleased using frequency shifting hearing aids to transpose the calls to a lower frequency range. They were probably using some sort of bat detector, which has that kind of capability.
Hearing aids are still a work in progress unfortunately, they do not help alleviate hearing loss anywhere nearly as effectively as glasses help manage fading eyesight.
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Old Saturday 9th November 2019, 15:47   #3
miketaylor
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Quote:
Originally Posted by etudiant View Post
It may have changed in the last few years, but as of about 2015, the frequency range of even top tier hearing aids here in the US was only up to 8000Hz. That limits their coverage for much of the repertory of our passerines, especially our warblers.
That's interesting, though a bit disappointing...
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Old Saturday 9th November 2019, 20:50   #4
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There was SongFinder but unfortunately it is no longer in production. http://hearbirdsagain.com/ has some information and explains why it worked better than ordinary hearing aids.
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Old Wednesday 13th November 2019, 19:43   #5
colincurry
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Hearing aids

I have had hearing aids for 15 years. I started with the NHS BTE Oticon Synergy. For vanity's sake, when our younger son got married, I tried some in the ear aids from Specsavers and these were OK but eventually gave up the ghost. I then tried other versions from Specsavers at around £2k but none of these worked properly.

The NHS audiology service is provided either in-house or by Specsavers. You have no choice in the matter and I was pleased to be treated in-house. I went back to the NHS who supplied updated Oticon BTE which were fine. About 18 months ago, I returned to the NHS for another hearing test which resulted in me receiving the latest Oticon Synergy BTE which improved matters. Unfortunately, the aids made my ears so sore that I was reluctant to use them; which rather defeats the object. Back I went and was given some soft molds which had an anti-allergy treatment. These were OK at first but eventually the soreness returned. Luckily, I have now been given Oticon Spirit Zest Plus where the receiver is in the ear (RITE) resulting in a smaller microphone behind the ear and a much thinner tube leading into the ear. I have been very well treated by the NHS which does not normally supply RITE aids.

I also did consider going private and went to one of high street suppliers. The top range of RITE was around £5k and the B range about £3.5k. Which has an interesting article on aids pointing out that the high street suppliers with their huge overheads and commission systems may not provide the best buy. I then tried a local small supplier with good internet reviews and the cost was around half. As I was in touch with the NHS, I decided to hold off for the time being and I am glad that I did.

It might be worth approaching an audiologist asking for a test and advice on an aid for birding. You would be under no obligation and should receive proper technical advice on your wish to hear better with higher frequencies.

I think probably that my hearing might be worse than yours and using any of the aids has made a huge difference - not that I am an expert on birdsong.

One final thing. Many years ago, I attended an evening course about birds at Swansea University. At the end of the course, the tutor took us up into Singleton Park. He remarked on the song from Goldcrests and Firecrests - I could hear nothing - probably would have been better with hearing aids!

Colin
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Old Wednesday 13th November 2019, 20:34   #6
miketaylor
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Thanks the comprehensive reply. It's good to hear about other peoples' experience.

I've had a "free" hearing assessment from one of the smaller high street chains, and was told that the top-of-the-range would help with clarity with background noise. My next approach is to try an independent audiologist to get a second opinion, and perhaps take up a 60-day free trial.

Mike
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