New Radios and Poor Ears

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by N8FVJ, Aug 8, 2019.

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  1. N8FVJ

    N8FVJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    My ears are not great. They hear well (normal enough per tests) without hearing aids, but background noises like in a busy restaurant causes hearing issues with others sitting at the table. Cannot block the background noise like when younger. I do hear 20Hz to 10khz.

    Now, listening to a HF SSB radio in a quiet room can be difficult to understand all the words if not a strong signal. And, I am not stating only weak signals either. DNR makes a big difference on new and older radios, but older solid-state (non op-amp) HF radios are much easier to hear speech details clearly vs new radios. Same with tube HF radios- ultra clear sounding. The audio clarity is much better with older radios and it has nothing to do with narrower filters in new radios either. I use an Am-Com DNR speaker on these older radios.

    BTW- I never can use the tiny built-in speaker in newer radios. I seriously cannot understand a lot of the speech with the tiny internal radio speaker. I always use a larger and high quality external speaker.

    Anyways, are new radios just having lousy audio quality that young ears do not pay much attention to the quality? Anyone else notice what I am stating?
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  2. KA0HCP

    KA0HCP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    -The lower sound quality on newer radios is typically a side effect of digitization.

    -Tiny internal speakers are quite poor. Get an external speaker with a large diameter +8 Inches. The difference in quality and what you can hear is amazing. The old boat anchor speakers are still great. Use the woofer from a discarded stereo. Put in an ugly box!

    -Use quality headphones. The step up from a large speaker. It does make a difference in being able to understand.

    -Consider adding a graphic equalizer in the audio output phones/speaker. MFJ markets one specifically hearing difficulties, but audiophile equalizers can be used.

    MFJ 618 stereo audio equalizer.
    WB5YUZ and N0TZU like this.
  3. AF7ON

    AF7ON Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have quite severe hearing loss and experience the same difficulty in understanding speech when not wearing hearing aids. The MFJ speech enhancers work well, but you can obtain similar enhancement on most modern radios using their built-in audio equalizer. Elecraft and Kenwood have very good equalizers, but Icom’s are not as good, in my experience. The MFJ article on their enhancers gives you good advice on how to optimize audio output for speech.

    I also use a pair of stereo speakers for normal shack operations and a headset for serious DX chasing.

    N0TZU likes this.
  4. N0TZU

    N0TZU Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Difficulty understanding speech in noise or with less than ideal sound is common with aging, assuming you are older as most hams are. The brain does a huge amount of signal processing of the information from the ears, and that system starts to degrade with age (as well as the ears themselves). From what I've read, the reasons for this aren't entirely clear yet but some of it is damage to the neurons carrying signals from the ears to the brain from loud noise. So, exposure to loud noise doesn't only damage the cilia (hair) cells in the inner ear.

    If there is lack of good fidelity in the receiver or speakers, then some of the sounds are missing or distorted, and the brain-ear system has a more difficult time processing to understand the speech. The acoustics of the room can make a big difference too because of reflections of the sound waves and the resulitngconstructive and destructive interference. Even changing the listening position within the room can matter.

    For me and my radio room, earphones work really well to more clearly understand and pull out the weak stations. They have good fidelity and there is no degradation from the acoustics of the radio enclosure or the room to muddy the sound. For these reasons earphones are usually better for critical hearing at any age.
  5. N4MU

    N4MU Ham Member QRZ Page

    All above agreed. AND, headphones have at least two additional advantages: (1) they make the wife happy, and, (2) they allow you to "miss" important "messages" (i.e. honey-dos) from her as in, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't hear you ask me to do that."
    K3EY, WQ4G, KT5WB and 3 others like this.
  6. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Headphones make a big difference.

    I haven't used any speakers on rigs at home since the 60s, and even then mostly used headphones.
    WB5YUZ likes this.
  7. K1SZO

    K1SZO XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Definitely external speakers and / or headphones.

    Radios / antennas with top quality low noise receive makes a big difference too.

    Finally, move out of the city into the country / woods. :)
  8. K7TRF

    K7TRF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    FWIW, here's a nice little audio DSP device that adds audio enhancement for age related hearing loss. From what I gather this is just a DSP equalization that boosts higher frequencies but it's interesting that at least one manufacturer is trying to tackle age related hearing loss as it relates to ham radio head on:
  9. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    It would seem that an older set of ears are not as sharp as a younger set. I notice also in an environment like a restaurant separating the voice of persons at the table from the other voices in room can be difficult. Another problem, I find headphones annoying to wear and the longer they're on the more annoying they become. Have been making an effort to adjust to wearing them and do find them to be a help with hearing.
  10. N8FVJ

    N8FVJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    What about new radios with exceptional audio? Any new radios that are great? The FT-991A is quite poor in this regard.

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