Headphones (Hearing) & Age

Apologies if this subject has been addressed before - I couldn’t find anything, but I am into day 2 of Covid and not exactly functioning at peak levels.

The title says Headphones but my thoughts and queries apply to listening to music in general.

As we all know and I myself am acutely aware of, our ability to hear diminishes as we grow older. I am now 60 and I can’t hear a damn thing over 11kHz. I last checked this a couple of years ago and I could hear 12-13kHz. I guess this is why I like the HifiMan type tuning and obviously I have no need to EQ that 12kHz and over boost that most of their cans have.

I still obviously enjoy listening to music and if you ask me whether or not it has changed over the last 10 years, I would say that I haven’t noticed any change. I assume that this is because of a very gradual change over a long period of time. I liken this effect to when I needed glasses for distances, I didn’t know my eyes had deteriorated until I had to do an eye test for a work thing. As my eyes had deteriorated over a long period of time, my brain had learned to fill in the gaps. Putting on those glasses for the first time was literally mind blowing. I’m guessing it would be similar if I could all of a sudden hear up to 17-20kHz?

A few things got me onto this subject besides being bored in isolation:

  1. Conflicting preferences between people on different headphones
  2. Conflicting preferences between people on EQ to a particular headphone
  3. Question - is it worth spending a lot of money on headphones with limited hearing?

Of course there will always be a preference difference between different people on the type of presentation they like but I suspect that what they CAN ACTUALLY hear is more prevalent than we know, as people don’t divulge their age or their range of hearing.

I have a pair of OG Focal Clears and that peak at 6kHz annoys me. My preferred EQ is to bring the frequencies around it up rather than bring the 6kHz peak down, I suspect that this has to do with me not being able to hear over 11kHz and I need that compensation? Reducing that peak sounds overly dark to me but on another forum there was a guy who said that he can hear up to 16-17kHz and his much preferred EQ on the same headphone was reducing that peak.

Which brings me to point 3. Yes I know - if it sounds good, buy it (LOL). I live in a city that has no dealers for Meze, DCA or ZMF and to get to a city to audition the new headphones that these guys just brought out is a one-way 4 hour plane ride. I joked the other day that the ONLY upside to getting older and the subsequent hearing loss is that I am saving money - as I really do question the value for money if I’m only getting 60% of the frequency response on offer for a TOTL headphone.

I would be interested in other people’s experience as they have gotten older and also whether or not there is any science behind the brain making compensations for missing frequencies. I would also be interested to hear from the headphones.com team on just how much music information there is in different sections across the frequency spectrum. ie. is it linear or does the range of music I can actually hear with the 11kHz limitation equal a much higher % of the musical information than the % on a linear scale?

Cheers :slightly_smiling_face:


One intersting thing you may not have run into is that almost all of the fundamental frequency of instruments is below 5000hz.

That means, for example, the string of a violin vibrates mainly at 300-3000hz which you recognize as its pitch. There are also lower volume harmonics at various higher frequencies, up to about 16000hz, which contribute to its timbre.

So even with hearing loss you are still hearing almost all of the core frequencies of the instruments.

From that perspective it’s still worth having accurate and detailed equipment so you can have good reproduction of the fundamental sounds.

Here’s a chart with the fundamental and harmonic frequencies of various intruments:

Instrument fundamental and harmonic frequencies


Depends on your definition of a lot of money I suppose. But I think it is. As @NickZ said, most of the fundamental frequencies are still well within your hearing ability. Do you like bass and prefer open back headphones? That’s not cheap without EQ but then you’ve already mentioned you’re comfortable with EQ.

At some point it may not be worth it, though. I have a younger friend lost much of his hearing due to an illness. He wears hearing aids. I had him listen to his favorite music through my OG Focal Clear and he wasn’t particularly impressed. I want to experiment more with EQ based on his hearing loss but we haven’t had time yet.

As I haven’t been into headphones but a few years, I can’t comment much on my experience as I age yet. I can say that I’m getting better at differentiating subtle differences in the sound, not worse.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I seem to be listening at higher avg SPL than many who have posted their preferred listening level. I’m not sure whether that’s from my inaccurate measurement of the level, their inaccurate measurement of the level, or me compensating for my (lack of) hearing.

I’m kinda jealous of these twenty somethings on here that still have most of their hearing. It’s a glorious time to be into headphones. “Revel in your time” friends!


Ah now that is what I was looking for - thanks!

Agree and a 69 year old, my ears just aren’t as great as they once was when I was young. Hearing loss is a common problem caused by noise, aging, disease, and heredity. Well I played in a rock band in high school and college back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, plus I dragged race. The loud amps and drag racing noise killed my ears. Protect your ears while you are still young or end up losing some high freq sounds. No cure, hearing aids can help but its what it is and unless you encounter a heredity problem and then its pretty much a given you will have hearing loss.


Both my experience and what I’ve read says the second explanation is the correct one. The human brain is an incredibly sophisticated prediction engine. It notices any absence of sound at high frequencies and, once it identifies the pattern of what’s missing, it fills in its best guess as to what’s missing. So instead of hearing nothing above 11 kHz, you’re hearing a not-too-loud, not-too-soft version of what might have been there. You won’t be able to evaluate whether a new headphone is problematic in that range, you won’t be able to talk accurately about the room acoustics of the recording, but for listening enjoyment, I find it to not be the worst thing to trade room acoustics nuances for a guaranteed non-irritating upper treble, lol.

I also have some significant loss in one ear between 1.5 kHz and 2.5 kHz. Now that this has stabilized my brain fills in the missing sound pressure by making a best guess based on what the good ear is picking up in that range. So a couple years ago I literally experienced the centre image shift day by day from being skewed to the left, to gradually zeroing in on the perceptually correct balance. Thus, initially I needed to use the left/right balance control to correct for the missing signal. Now if I make the same left;/right balance adjustment that an audiogram would say is required, the centre image is instead pushed correspondingly too far to the right.

However, when I listen to an older jazz recording with a saxophone player panned hard left and a trumpet player panned hard right, the sax sounds too quiet and dull. So I simply reverse the headphones to put the left channel on my right ear when I want to hear what the sax would sound like to a person with normal hearing.

As to whether or not you’ll hear the subtleties of higher quality headphones, I’d say as long as all the hearing loss you have is confined to the final octave, you should still be good to go. Again, you’ll miss out on the nuances of the recording studio’s acoustics in the air frequencies, but that’s just one aspect of the potential improvements in the many technicality areas that reviewers go on about. Enjoy it while it lasts, grin.


Has anyone used their headphones, or speakers for that matter, with hearing aids?
If so, how would you describe your experience?

Headphone volume decreases with age due to sound waves. These waves further degrade sound quality and volume. As a result, the headphones will lose their characteristics (such as bass). Also, you will hear buzzing and low sounds.

I started wearing hearing aids about three years ago and was impressed by the improvement in sound with speakers at least and with some headphones if they are large enough. I recently purchased a Lokius equalizer from Schiit Audio and I am amazed by how much better it sounds than using hearing aids with both speakers and headphones. My hearing starts rolling off above 4K but a good equalizer such as the one above mentioned improves the sound dramatically. BTW I am 67 years old and after hearing how much better everything sounds with the equalizer I am considering upgrading my entire system.