We are often asked “Why headphones?” or are told “My mum will never tolerate headphones,” and very often are asked if headphones work with hearing aids.

Here I’ll try to give some answers to those questions, but I’m not an audiologist and if you or the person you care for wears hearing aids, ask your audiologist next time you see them to get your hearing aid serviced (at least every 6 months).

First it’s important to say that early after diagnosis there is probably no need to think about headphones. Simply sitting listening to your music perhaps with a loved one or friend through the technology you currently use is great fun and will no doubt give you those flashbulb moments when you hear music that takes you back to a time in your life, a person, a holiday or other memory.

If the technology you use is still working for you great! If the music is now in one place such as a CD, mp3 player or iPod, think about getting a small speaker. This makes the whole thing more portable.

There are many great mini speakers available for around £30.00 or less. Sound quality is of course linked to price. Go to one of the big electrical retailers and get their staff to show you the options and play music through them. When I was buying one I took my iPod into the shop so I could hear my music through a few speakers. Don’t get worried by things like Bluetooth. Most of these speakers come with an auxiliary port for an audio cable. Again the staff in the electrical retailers will be able to advise. 

Speakers like this one are about the size of a box of After Eight Mints.

As we age many of us will already begin to experience difficulties with our hearing. It was once described to me as TMB syndrome. TOO MANY BIRTHDAYS! Some of us ignore it of course, much to our families annoyance. I know that my conversations with my own mother are punctuated with her frequent use of “Sorry?, Sorry?” or “Pardon?” As I mutter under my breath I know she is saying to herself “It will come to you too one day!” She’s probably right as the prevalence of hearing loss doubles for every decade of life.

Coupled with age related hearing loss, a diagnosis of dementia can mean that our ability to process sound and concentrate on one single sound (e.g. a voice, or music) in an environment with many sounds can become compromised. Our brains now have to work even harder to do this. Wearing headphones can assist with this as they block out many competing sounds and enable us to concentrate much easier. A speaker may just become one more competing sound. So try headphones.


Headphones can really help you to hear and concentrate on your music. There is a huge range of options and prices but I’ve found you don’t need to spend a fortune. Once again your electrical retailer will help but here are some basic things to consider, particularly about the size of the headphones.

  1. Many of the devices such as iPods and mp3 players come with in-ear (ear-bud) headphones. I don’t recommend these. They are difficult to clean and fall out easily as our ears age (and become floppy!)
  2. Next size up is On-ear headphones. As the name suggests these sit on the ear over the earhole. They are lightweight but do not cancel out other external noise quite so well as Over the ear types.
  3. I think the next solution is best, but as with everything it’s down to individual preference. Over the ear headphones have a bigger headphone cups which can cover the whole ear. I repeat my advice to speak to your audiologist if you wear hearing aids but from my experience hearing aid wearers need to use these over the ear headphones.  These need to have a large enough headphone cup so that it covers the hearing aid and the speaker is far enough away from the hearing aid to avoid feedback.

Tolerance of headphones is very individual. Don’t immediately reject them as an option particularly as the journey continues. Try a few different times with different music. If we’ve not been listening to music for a while, it can take time to tune in.  

I hope this advice helps but please feel free to add a comment or question and I’ll respond as soon as I can.


The Music Detective