The Audiophile Upgrade Easiest to Ignore

Common wisdom when putting together an audio system is to first choose the speakers. It makes sense except speakers are not the last device in the audio hardware chain. Our ears are.

My audiologist tells me about two-thirds of the individuals he tests have a hearing impairment. My left ear significantly dips in the mid-range. My right ear takes a dive at 1kHz. As an avid audiophile, I finally realized that I could never build a truly high fidelity system unless I could properly evaluate audio gear.

I thought that because I could hear voices ok my hearing had to be good for music as well. How wrong I was! Ear infections began to erode my hearing acuity until I had to take hearing tests, treat the problems, and get hearing aids to make up for my deficiencies.

I'll never forget the day when I tried my new pair of hearing aids. I could carry on a conversation without uttering "What did you say?" with great frequency. And I could hear music in its full glory. It's as if I had bought a new piece of audio gear, which in fact I had, and tonality, instrument separation, and the rest of the attributes often used to describe an excellent piece of gear had made an appearance

I regret not having corrected my hearing much sooner. I missed on a great deal of joy for many years. I'm writing this post to urge those of you fellow audiophiles, even if you have no problem hearing normal speech, to get a hearing test. There are good ones in free apps that are a good first step towards a professional test. One called "Hearing Test" is quite exceptional and available on Android phones.

Doing a hearing test takes just a few minutes and is extremely easy to do. Don't cheat yourself of all the subtleties and nuances that music offers when it is so easy to do something about it.

And let the community know. Perhaps then print and video audio reviewers will follow suit and improve the credibility of their reviews. God knows what they often say about gear performance sounds nothing like what I hear, even allowing for differences in equipment synergy and room acoustics.

If would be awesome if reviewers published their own hearing tests and what they have done to correct any deficiencies they have. I don't think it's asking for too much given the influence they have on the audio equipment we spend a great deal of money to acquire.


I know I need to do this, thanks for the nudge. In terms of audio, I have always been concerned that a hearing aid would essentially be the last (digital) audio component in my chain, and could negatively affect the quality of sound. Can I ask what brand of aids you chose that gave you good results? 

On the lighter side, I want to see the look on the audiologist’s face when I ask for jitter specs on their hearing aids. I see a whole new business here. Who will create the first external hearing aid reclocker?

You cracked me up about the hearing aid specs. If something like the Denafrips DDC at the beginning of the chain cleans up the USB signal, would the hearing aids at the end of the chain be an ADC? (Air or Analog to Digital converter) Inquiring minds want to know.

I have the Oticon Opn 1. However, I am trialing the Widex Moment, reputed to be the favorite of musicians. It is awesome sounding and highly adjustable. The phone app has volume, built-in programs including a very good one for Music, and an equalizer to create customer presets.

These two hearing aids are behind-the-ear models. They don't cover the whole ear and feed you the whole signal, but "assist" the natural sound coming through the ears and around the tiny speaker inside the ear. I wish I could describe the technology better.

THE MOST important piece to the audiophool puzzle.

When the hearing deficit becomes markedly evident in tests, you can only do so much striving for T.A.S. - room, gear and tweaks.

Tinnitus, with hearing loss @7Khz here. Adapting without aid, until the inevitable- or perhaps lady luck is with me until I reach 100? Probably be more concerned with the R.A. by then.

nope....not nearly as good as live music or music through a very high end stereo.  It's better with hearing aids, but "fake".  Its a great loss to anyone who appreciates what a real violin really sounds like in real space.

@psalvet : thanks for the heads up about the Widex.  I’m considering expensive aids vs Costco.  The expensive one are better, but the c. $4k difference seems to be almost all in the digital processing and audiologist markup.

I had Oticon Intiga 10’s.  They died, and I can’t get parts.

@stingreen: just wait.

Aids are certainly inferior to good hearing, but they improve on not hearing things at all. They at least help cymbals and so on sound more like the real thing.  But since it is an extra a/d converter, optimized for small size far more than for quality, the sound can get irritating.  sadly, once those little cilia in your ear are dead, no amount of amplification helps all that much.  I vacilate between using them, or not, with music.
The implanted Lyric was the last analogue hearing aid.  It may still be analogue, idk. 


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I have tinnitus and the usual HF loss associated with being 70. I have tried several hearing aids, which have mostly varied from hideous to absurd. The best are the Nuheara IQ Buds from Australia, which offer a customized hearing test, and the full suite of BT, Noise Reduction, and multiple modes for home, restaurant, airplane, etc. courtesy of multiple microphone tricks. I would wear them more, except their battery life, due to all their functionality is only about 4 hours. Long enough for dinner out, most of a flight to Hawaii. All for $400. When I try a prescription pair that's 10X as much, with none of the functionality and horrible sound quality, I walk out very disappointed. There are no hearing aids on in the market that can justify more than $500 price. Add 4 hours of an audiologists time at $250/hr you arrive at $1500. Tops. 

Similar ears here. Mids, low-highs deficit in left, right just some highs lower.  So we know how much tech etc goes into the SQ chain and I can't help but think that something so small, from analog input to digital, to a tiny power source to a tiny speaker could be as good.  For my 2 cents, I added a Lokius 6 band EQ to each channel on the processor loop and adjusted independently to achieve a flatter (to my ears) response.  All via  hi-fi devices.  I'm ecstatic.  Was fighting imaging issues too since my "balance" wasn't even.  Does it help with conversations or away from the system? No.  But I don't have that scale of issue anyway.  Just another view / solution. 

An audiologist test doesn't test for what is essentially the benefit of a lifetime of listening to music. Plenty of older individuals (not unlike myself) have developed listening skills and tastes that I feel transcend hearing range particularly...Elliot Scheiner, Bob spring chickens there, and they work all the time.  I never notice tinnitus (my ever lasting friend from years of earball abuse...I'm never alone!) when listening to or playing music. Never. I adjust levels of certain frequencies (Schiit EQ) from time to time but not that often, driven by taste...but still, I hear everything music offers...not as well as a dog or a 10 year old but do I care? No. I keep my ears clean and on track to hear them trains a comin'.

@psalvet... Another aidoholic here, but they changed my personal eq for most above 6Khz, esp. my right channel...👍😎

Phonak wearer here, and my right aid has decided to not charge itself, so oft to repair hell....if only as a 'back-up'.

Been considering the Widex, considering its' appreciation by the players vs us mere admiration/appreciation it's good to read your comments... +10

First audiologist was great, spent some time 'tweaking' my aid response a tad to my eq prefs....her replacement, not so much...

It's worth shopping about for and about was *meh* with his earside manners, whereas the second was happy to pass on just 'pushing product', and just discuss my needs +/vs. desires....

And noted that my hearing requires getting 'fitted' earpieces, instead of the off the shelf plugs...which is why I expect higher $ out of pocket, but UHC picks up 50%...

*L*  I get to be the 'high maintenance' end of my relationship with spouse.... ;)

Going to visit a '4.9' near me that's reviewed great...and young enough to perhaps 'appreciate' the odd edge thrash I like...

...and anything else you'd care to share re your Widex.....consider them a 'very personal form of DAC'...😏

Cheerios, J

Sooooo, we need get our 'impairement curve' from the audiologist. 

Then we can tell Audacity (or other equalizer) to compensate what the in-hearing-location microphone measurement found and then we have perfect audio.

Its time that somone develops a DBC (digital to brain converter) so we can bypass speakers, room AND EARS (darn things are no good for nothing).

I have suffered with tinnitus for over 20 years and as I get older "74" it only gets worse. I have worn aids for 15 years and am on my 4th set of them. The current ones are Audibel by Starkey. They are very programmable from my iPhone but there is no real fix for diminished hearing. 

Now you guys have the high end speaker manufacturers drooling. Wilson mini puppy or Bowers & Wilkins  .800's

I'm a Widex Moment user and very happy with them. They are not perfect but are dramatically better than all of the others I have had (Phonax, Costco). The others sounded so bad they were essentially unusable. They were edgy, grating, unnatural. 

I am nowhere near the ear deficiencies described by many here and feel for them. I do have tinnitus and took a professional hearing test last year. As a 69 year old, my hearing is as good as most people my age. A small reduction in upper frequencies, both ears pretty even.

So all I ever needed is the new Loki Max. You can get your upper frequencies back on any record you want. I believe that's where most audiophiles miss the boat. Their inacceptance of any type of equalizer for purity reasons.  If your hearing is young and perfect, good for you. Otherwise you are going upstream without a paddle in your pursuit of audio nirvana. 

Went through a similar journey

I've been in bands 

Seen tons of live shows 

and hunted my whole life 

I went and got my hearing test at age 59

and ended up buying a pair of Widex Moment 440s

these were the only aids that only fed my Deficiencies

and it was like I was 21 again

I you are in a similar situation I would read Michael Fremers review of the aids

and give them a try   
definately life changing and everyone will eventually have to

face the music

Goof luck Willy-T



wearing hearing aids my whole life and yes I can tell the difference in speakers, amplification, record quality ... yet I often have to ask my wife or kids, what did you say, etc ... I often wonder how I can be more defined and truly tell a difference, I have to imagine that folks without hearing loss either find my systems even clearer and more amazing than I do. As for brands of aids, had them all Beltone for probably 20 years, they were good/ok but brittle, any kind of drop and back to have a crack fix with remold; Starkey's have been great, more durable, tuning is tough regardless of the aid ... Finding a audiologist that is willing to spend time is key, try to find that one setting and use it 99% of the time ... the 1% for me is 6 db less for loud areas were I want spacial awareness but don't need to hear it all.

Here are a few spec questions that you will now need when choosing Audiophile Hearing Aids.  
Bluetooth connectivity:

Can I connect my digital sources directly to the hearing aids bypassing my external DAC and speakers?


Class A:


Frequency Response:

Power output:

Damping factor:

Digital filter, Bit Perfect:

Clock speed:

A/D, D/A Chip used:


Are there “Less is More and More is Less” options.

High end Audio companies will be releasing new hearing aids soon Im sure.  All with new names.  Like:

Ear Shiit or Grado Aids.  
And of course special fluids for ear cleansing. 
Optional resonance free isolation ear canal mounting frames for the hearing aids. 
oh yes I could go on!

I have the same problem.  I have been holding off because I worry if I get hearing aids my sound system will sound unnatural and tinny.  I wonder if my tweeters will sound too bright.  Perhaps we should all have our hearing tested before investing in speakers.  I also wonder how many audiophiles have to replace their speakers because they sound too harsh.  Perhaps they realize others who listen to a sound system with good hearing could listen to a system we designed.  Certainly a different way of thinking about the perfect system we are trying to design.  We are in affect creating a system for us rather than for everyone to enjoy.  

thanks for sharing.  I still wonder how a sound system would sound after purchasing hearing aids?  Do hearing aids make music sound unnatural?

I as well have had to go that journey. Too many missed words  my partner talking about sounds from my  speakers like brushes or cymbals I wasn’t hearing  Testing showed a deficit at around 8 k if I recall.

i ended up getting Phillips aids at Costco. They have a music setting which I use when listening to both live and when listening to my system, but I turn the setting  down so I get boost in high frequency but not so much that it sounds tinny and bright.  That  is the compromise for me



I recently built a set of speakers and the best critical advice I have received on placement/positioning has been from an Audio Friend who wears Hearing Aids... Darn It All... those things must be doing something Right!

Glad they are helping! Fortunately I’m ok at 67 with some HF loss, but I did research a bit and was told they all only boost mids as they are designed to improve speech intelligibility. Appears this may not be the case and they help for music

Not Widex Moment 440s

They are the only design I’m aware of that the sole purpose in design is to improve music. You gotta trust me on this one 

already took the journey

read Femers review



My brother is almost deaf for all his life ... He hear almost nothing with any of his ears and work with 2 hearing aids...

He claim that Bach is God...

And he listen to him everyday...

Music is not about sound...

And hearing aids help...


I am at the stage where I know I need a hearing aid but really don’t want to.  A couple of years ago, I went to a highly recommended audiologist and found my hearing pretty much drops off over 8K.  My main rig has tone controls which has been a God-send. And I recently added a Schiit Lokius EQ to my office rig.   At this point, I don’t worry any longer about the “absolute sound”, I just want to hear the upper frequency’s.  The 16K control on the Lokius is totally inaudible to me but I can still hear changes with the 6K control.  

....most of them....

I only have to please and amuse self...

Given a winning Lotto, that would likely still be the case.

Abusing SOTA would simply be a self-serving overkill...except....

...some yrs. back B-G assembled a batch of their line source units in an array that could be heard "a quarter of a mile away, clearly....driven by a modest receiver...’

I find that....appealing on some levels....although the rest would likely get me merely arrested...😏

That got removed from their website...

Gee, I wonder why....


I've been wearing hearing aids for almost 3 years now. They are expensive Phonak models.

Are the perfect NO. Are they better than not using them yes. You have to realize that most hearing aids are designed to improve hearing speech. Mine have several settings and the music setting is not bad.

The audiologist is very important in getting it right. Try to find one that uses real ear measurement to check the performance inside your ear while wearing them.

If you live in Texas check with the Texas Workforce Commission. Mine were free going through them.

I let my hearing loss go way too long.  I started to appreciate how fatiguing it was for family to keep repeating/speaking.  One day, with grand kids in the back seat, trying to order lunch thru the drive thru, ,, I was trying to get kids orders relayed to the speaker,,and not being able to understand anybody involved.  I truly lost it and realized how foolish.  Phillips hearing aids thru Costco.  The music menu works well.  I then realized how loud I was playing music thru my system when friends came over.  Couldn’t figure out their lack of enthusiasm.  
I use an Isonic for ultrasonic record cleaning.  When I hit the degas button, I gotta vacate the room.  Can’t describe what the hearing aids do.  Reminded me of Cousin Eddy in Christmas Vacation, describing the metal plate in his head when he stands too close to the microwave.  Time is a thief 

See attached audiogram from a decade past. Purple region is considered "normal" hearing. Check out the mid to high frequencies! Probably worse now. Past history of loud live (mostly) rock music - from Hendrix to the recent present Front Line Assembly show.

Wearing hearing aids during speech (usually) and not while listening to music - although these do help somewhat.

Have had minimal success with signal processing (Schiit Lokius). Headphones (Sennheiser HD650) help the most.

Looking forward to (but not in my lifetime at 67 years old) for hearing aid manufacturers to specifically manufacture high quality hearing aids geared to "our" community.


I am 69 andI have high frequency loss pretty substantial between 4k to 7k.  After getting my hearing aids I started hearing lots of the high frequencies that I knew had disappeared.

I am currently using a Signia AX hearing aid rebranded through Truhearing.  These are very good, cost is very reasonable through the insurance.  I selected these because they work and don't cost a ton of money.


BTW I have never thought about the issues with DA conversion but I do enjoy hearing more of the detail that I had lost.


Just saying.  Let's try not to be too anal retentive at the end of the day it just takes away from the enjoyment of the activity

Power cords many people forget about the upgrade potential there,

a proper dedicated 4 wire ground for m3 was 1st with a common ground and insulated isolated ground. 
the dac is the sourse as well as a quality server , Linear power supplies for Modem router combo , I use hard wire but digital noise is very easy to pick up 

Linear Tube Audio by far best LPS ,and at $750 a true bargain , and most charge $150 for a good DC cable ,they Donot it comes standard router 12V , and up to 8 amps  and Quality digital usb, Ethernet cables all these little things add up to many % points in sound quality.

Just before he died I got to sit in on some sessions with the greatest sound engineer ever and he could hardly hear anymore he was just about 90 years old but since he has a memory and consistency of what great sound was he still made wonderful sounding music. Your brain tells you what great sound is not your ears. 

“Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” My Widex hearing aids are not perfect, but with hearing loss that drops off above 2k, they made a noticeable improvement in my ability to hear everything from acoustic guitar, strings to the cymbals. A symphony orchestra sounds more like a symphony orchestra, a Bill Evan’s recording more like one, all sound richer, fuller, more complete. The Widex software has an equalizer and the ability to create preset equalizations for different purposes. Just hoping newer units are less costly.

I’m another audiophile that have worn hearing aids all my life. Here is my advice on hearing aids for first time buyers.

1. spend money on the high-end brands like Phonak, Starkey, Beltone. I paid $3500 cash for my Phonak with Bluetooth. You can negotiate price with your audiologist. You honestly don’t need 15 programs, just the bare minimum. "Over the ear" hearing aids will have less issues than "In the ear" and they are usually easier to repair.

2. the hearing aid programming are only good as your audiologist programming. Research the Audiologist you’re going to meet or get recommendation from others.

3.Lastly, I recommend one program set up without compression or the auto-environment adjustment. This is the program I use for music or concert listening. In fact, I use this program for everyday use.

4. Lastly, your new hearing aid will sound strange the first week, so give yourself a week for your brain and ear to adjust and sound will smooth out.

No, do not get Starkey, Beltone, or Phonex. Get the Widex. They do require adjustment via an audiologist and are slightly more than the brands mentioned above. However, if music is your priority, Widex is the way to go. The music program is not the best for speech but it’s easy to shift back. These are the only hearing aids specifically designed for music lovers.

I bought the Opticon.. Expensive and they suck. I'm going to have to see the Audiologist, see if she can tweak them. The problem is they sound digital and compressed. 

We all chase the desired sound we love.  If the last piece is compromised everything before it becomes null.  Great advice!

Got widex on review.  Have tried three other brands & almost gave up until I saw this post.  Widex is by far the most natural , consider them a major improvement to your system 


Age 68 with pretty severe hearing loss 3k and higher. I’ve been wearing hearing aids since 2015 and they make a huge positive difference for me. I agree with the positive comments above on the difference these make. I had Oticon but changed over to Widex Moment 330 a year ago. I do have one point to add in - the rubber domes at the end of the receiver/speaker wire that insert in your ear can make a huge difference. I had problems with the Widex at first - I was using the ’Tulip’ domes and just could not get them to sound good. I was about to give up after many trips to the audiologist trying to tune them. I decided to try the ’Open’ domes and they made all the difference. The aids are now superb and I enjoy my system again. I just wanted to point this out to Widex users if you have not tried this.

Widex Moment Domes