Above: Promotional shot of the Marantz MPH-4 studio headphones

My favorite headphones

Hearing loss changes how I evaluate headphones. My current favorite is a happy accident.

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Headphones are how I found out I had hearing loss, and maybe that’s a story I will tell a different time. But I want to talk about these headphones first because they are absolutely amazing for a much different reason than most people review the things for: they work with my hearing aids.

I wear a style called “receiver-in-the-canal” or “RIC” hearing aids. These are small behind-the-ear devices that reduce bulk by moving part, but not all, of the hearing aid to the ear canal.

This is great for most hearing environments but it’s terrible for headphones, and if I wear any I tend to take out my hearing aids. Earbuds are entirely incompatible for obvious reasons. On-ear headphones don’t direct sound at the listening part of RIC headphones and tend to be uncomfortable because of the mass of plastic behind my ear. That leaves me with over-ear devices.

I have three pairs of these I use relatively frequently. The first is an old set of Bose QuietComfort 3’s which predate me using any hearing correction at all. Then I have some Sony MDRV6 studio monitors.

Both of these are great headphones – not that I have the best ears for judging these things – but to use them I still usually have to take my hearing aids out. Bose’s ear cups are shallow enough to crowd the hearing aid receiver and cause feedback, a problem that’s even worse with the MDRV6s. And the Sony’s ear cups are smaller, so they tend to muffle the mic rather than direct sound at it.

Slightly larger ear cups, in both radius and depth, would improve this. So I tend to shop for size. And what does no one talk about in their reviews? Yeah. So I’m reduced to eyeballing these, which is what I did when Musician’s Friend put the Marantz MPH4’s up as their “Stupid Deal of the Day.” I would not have gambled $120, but the sale combined with some other discounts I had coming to me combined to a 93% discount so I paid my eight bucks and took a chance.

Boy, am I glad I did. While some over-the-ear styles tuck behind the helix, these entirely encircle my ears with just the slightest adjustment. This means there’s a fighting chance for sound to get to my hearing aid mics. And the earcups seem a bit deeper than any of the others I’ve worn. I don’t know what this means acoustically for people who don’t wear hearing aids, but for me, it means considerably less feedback. I can finally wear headphones and hearing aids comfortably, and that’s a big deal.

Your mileage may vary, of course. Hearing aids are all quite a bit different. The tendency towards feedback depends on the brand, price, style, and programming settings. But if you’re looking for headsets to go over RICs or CICs, these are well worth checking out.

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