HAUPPAUGE, N.Y., Dec. 14, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The year was 2004. Decades into a celebrated career as a musician and educator, renowned Baroque flutist Stephen Schultz needed hearing aids. But not because he had trouble perceiving the melodious interplay between himself and fellow performers. Instead, it began to dawn on Schultz that he was experiencing hearing loss while teaching his popular course about the Beatles at Carnegie Mellon University.
“I would teach the Beatles in large classrooms for almost 200 students,” Schultz says. “I started noticing it was difficult to hear questions from the back of the room.”
Schultz visited an audiologist and was diagnosed with otosclerosis, an often-inherited condition that affects a person’s ability to amplify sound.
“It usually comes from the females in a family. My mother had it. My aunts had it. My sister didn’t get it, but I did,” he recalls.
Facing a choice between hearing aids and an operation that might fix the tiny bones in his ears, Schultz waited.
“I was in denial and worried about how wearing hearing aids would affect my flute sound and playing career,” he says. He liked to move around the classroom anyway, so to compensate he made a habit of walking toward students to hear them better.
Eventually, Schultz was fitted for hearing aids and has worn them ever since. Although once he could clearly hear students in the back of the class, or for that matter a conductor giving direction to the orchestra, the next leg of his hearing journey began — from just hearing to hearing more naturally. And that’s the journey that led Schultz to the Widex Moment Sheer hearing aids he wears today.
“Yes, hearing aids amplify sound, but really good ones like my Widex Moment Sheer hearing aids let you hear the rich palate that you’d normally miss,” he says. “It’s on another level. The speech clarity is amazing, but they make my flute sound great, too. Like it sounded before I wore hearing aids.”
Always Seeking a Better Flute Sound
Growing up, Schultz says, there was always classical music in the house. His father played piano and loved opera and late-19th century compositions. When Schultz was five years old, he began attending concerts. When he was nine, he took up the flute.
“When I went to college, I was concerned about making a living as a musician, so I started out pre-med,” Schultz says. “But it was pretty obvious what I really wanted to be, so I switched.”
An early interest in the music of Bach and Handel, combined with years playing the flute, led Schultz to master the Baroque flute, an 18th century instrument made of wood and capable of sweeter, gentler sound than its modern counterpart. By the 1980s, he was playing professionally and would be regarded in the press as “among the most flawless artists on the Baroque flute.”
Enter the Beatles. When Schultz isn’t performing, he’s a professor of flute and music history at Carnegie Mellon. He teaches about the entire recording and performance history of this seminal rock group, from Please Please Me to Let it Be. He’s also taking his love of the Beatles to the University of California Berkeley’s Osher Institute, exploring the musical, lyrical, and structural content of their songs.
“I adore the Beatles,” he says. “Gustav Mahler, the Beatles, and Baroque music are my main things.”
When his hearing loss started to affect his teaching, Schultz acquired hearing aids, which introduced a new challenge to his performing career: Even though he could now hear people speaking to him, his early hearing aids tended to alter the sound of his instrument.
“My hearing is my life, so I went through a lot of different hearing aids to try and get the best flute sound possible,” Shultz explains.
Making the Flute Sound Natural
“The flute parts I play in my orchestras and chamber concerts are always the highest part of the wind section,” Schultz says. “Good hearing is crucial to be able to match pitches and blend my sound into the whole. The trick is finding hearing aids that make the flute sound natural to me, without any feedback, and to be able to clearly hear everyone around me.”
Widex Moment Sheer hearing aids come with patented PureSound technology to overcome the tinny noise that results when direct and amplified sound arrive at the eardrum out of sync. PureSound’s ZeroDelay processing eliminates distortion and other common artifacts to create a more natural sound.
For years, Schultz tried a variety of hearing aids. Finally, his audiologist, Dr. Ray Crookston, AuD. At Hearing Zone Doctors of Audiology, suggested he try Widex hearing aids, citing their unique ability to process music.
“Other hearing aids sounded too bright, not rich. My flute was thin,” Schultz says. “Dr. Crookston suggested Widex for their ability to make music sound more natural.”
Widex Moment hearing aids also come with an app to help the user adjust settings easily. During fitting, Schultz and Crookston started with the app’s built-in Music mode and tweaked it to create what the two named Concert mode in the Widex app.
“For the past 20 years, Widex has been my go-to for musicians, music enthusiasts, and for patients who prefer a vast range of sound from their hearing devices,” Crookston commented. “Stephen immediately took to the Widex Sheer devices due to their distinct sound, and his results in speech clarity and overall sound quality have been significant since wearing them.”
Stephen also uses the app to adjust settings when he’s not performing, like in the classroom or out to dinner with his wife. “I keep my hearing aids on all day and often adjust them to better hear people in front of me while pushing away background noise.”
When he first got hearing aids, Schultz’s hair was long, which hid older pairs from view. Now that his hair is short, his Widex Moment Sheer hearing aids, though very subtle, are a bit more conspicuous, and colleagues who notice want to learn from his experience.
“A lot of musicians, especially in my generation, have hearing loss,” he says. “I encourage them to visit an audiologist and tell them they can still have a rewarding professional career. I keep performing, touring, recording, and teaching at the highest level possible, even with — and actually because of — these great Widex hearing aids.”
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