Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hearing aids and birding

Blackburnian Warbler
I’m starting with a link to a PDF file of an article of mine in the current issue of the American Birding Association’s magazine, Birding, about hearing aids specifically for birders.

Immediately after it came out, I started getting emails from people wanting more information about my own hearing aids. The model I use is Phonak Audéo V, and I love them, but I’ve never tried any other brand or model. Without comparing them to anything else that may be as good or better, and may be less expensive to boot, I can’t recommend them outright. They’re doing a wonderful job of bringing in birds I couldn’t hear anymore.

When my article came out, Ted Floyd posted a 3-part piece in the American Birding Association’s blog about his own hearing loss. In the blog, he posted a sound file for an Allard’s ground cricket—a sound he suddenly cannot pick up with one ear. I played the recording on my laptop while I was visiting my sister-in-law. I didn’t have my hearing aids in, and could not hear it at all, even with the sound cranked all the way up, but my sister-in-law heard it with ease when she wasn’t sitting all that close. With my hearing aids I can hear the recording just fine, and even better when I set them on the personal setting my audiologist created to help me hear high-pitched natural sounds better. 

But as helpful as my hearing aids are, as my Birding article goes into in depth, I still can’t hear high-pitched sounds from more than a few meters away. To bring in distant Le Conte’s Sparrows, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and those Allard’s ground crickets, I use another device, Lang Elliott’s SongFinder. 

Lang Elliott demonstrates his pocket-sized SongFinder

It works by lowering the frequencies by half or even more of high-pitched songs, so they don’t sound normal, but the pattern helps identify them. You can listen to several examples, including one of my favorite high-pitched singers, the Blackburnian Warbler, as they sound naturally, and as the SongFinder changes it, on the Hear Birds Again webpage

As I wrote about in the Birding article, with this cool device, I could hear high-pitched birds from as far away as two 29-year-old birders could hear them. With both my hearing aids and the SongFinder, I can hear nearby birds as beautifully as ever, and can pick out distant birds as well as anyone else. 

Some people think hearing aids are a sign of old age. But mine make me feel young again because I can hear the birds I love. Please post comments about your specific birding experiences with hearing aids and any tips you have that can improve people’s experiences with hearing aids. Comments are moderated so I can keep spam and self-promoting posts to a minimum.


  1. thanks a lot for helping birds and animals to survive, you are a great man!

    1. I'm afraid that by not reading the name of this blog, Little Old LADY in Tennis Shoes, your comment has some pretty clear evidence that your organization is not the place to go for proofreading services!

  2. Hearing aids are not a sign of old age, as well as hearing loss is not a sign of old age! That just a common misconception.

    1. It is true that many young people suffer hearing loss. But hearing loss very very often, including in my personal case, does get worse as people grow older. So it's more complicated than people think, but is hardly a misconception.


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