Pop/rock music sounds like crap with hearing aids on; they're so simple that there's just not much that gets added with additional sound. I'm trying to figure out which way I feel about jazz, but am withholding judgment until I learn how to disentangle madly improvising instruments via working with classical music, where I can at least read the scores.
Classical music, on the other hand, sounds amazing. Holy. Shit. I hear so much more of it. I accidentally tuned in to a classical station while driving to Chicago last weekend and started laughing and crying right there on the highway. Oboes! Violins! Sopranos! They're there! They're right there with the rest of the music! It's like seeing things in color for the first time after a life of black and white.
I haven't heard classical music in the past so much as I've imagined it. I used to sit at a piano and read scores in middle and high school when I was a cellist in the orchestra, playing the higher-frequency instrument parts out individually on octaves where I could hear them, trying to imagine what they sounded like together. I would carry that mental sound-picture with me to rehearsals and concerts and hum the high bits in my head as I was playing the low ones. I've done this in orchestras, when accompanying vocalists on piano, in small ensembles (quartets, etc), in the band I played keyboard for in college... everywhere.
Imagine putting earbuds on and playing a song not on your setlist through them at medium volume -- not enough to block out other sounds, but enough to make it difficult to hear the real music, enough to force you to imagine the parts of your fellow players. Now try playing. Are you hesitant to respond to other instruments? Of course you are; you can't hear them, so you try to ignore the background noise and march forward mechanically, occasionally lining yourself up with visual cues and frantic listening ("where are we? how fast and in what manner is everyone else playing?") during the passages where you have long, long rests. That's what rehearsals and performances have been like for me, forever. For anyone who is not a bass player and has ever tried musically collaborating with me -- DJ (you're a bassist, though; I hear you), Tesch, Amanda, Gallimore, Nikki, Tank, Kristen, etc -- this is why I suck in ensemble. I don't so much hear your parts as I am furiously mentally imagining them based on faint, sparse auditory cues while simultaneously attempting to sightread my part, which is similarly faded-out under the noise of other instruments. Needless to say, this typically doesn't work out well.
So to actually hear other instruments clearly in the music is something I've never even hoped for, because I've never been in the business of hoping for the impossible. But sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, as it turns out. And hearing aids have advanced farther than I ever thought they would (which makes me eager for the future, and wondering if I can help create it). And I so very much want to play music with other people now, to learn to do that again, to see if I can find ways (with more frequencies at hand) to join that soundscape conversation better than I have been able to in years past. I want reasons to practice and play and people to play with.
It will take plenty of work, though; music is now a jumbled mess for me. I can't tell the instruments and their melodic lines apart; I don't know what flutes sound like and how to tease them apart from first sopranos when both are making simultaneous noises. I need to sit and listen to music, preferably while looking at sheet music. I need to go back and forth between that and trying to play; I'm literally learning to hear again, learning new ways to respond to sound, rewiring old habits. If any fellow music enthusiasts are willing to sit with me and help me learn to hear, and help me learn to play with others, then... that would... be the awesome. (Takers? I can play rusty-intermediate piano, rusty-basic cello, and rudimentary guitar, but will try anything.)
Another mini-experiment I look forward to running: I have heard that electronics equipment makes beeps (for instance, multimeters in connectivity-testin' mode), and wonder if I can empirically verify this now.
Also: I can listen to books on tape while driving, provided that the subject matter is familiar and the language of the tape is English. Language tapes have also suddenly become more useful: I can't learn new things from them (yet), but I can now use them to practice without having to find, read, and partially-memorize their transcripts before getting in the car. I wonder if this will help develop my listening abilities in German (and other languages I might tackle later on). Crazy! I'm going to grab my dad's old iPhone as an iPod when I drive to Glenview today and start loading language CD tracks onto it to see what happens. I wonder if I can use these to study while I'm running. So many more hours in a day that I can learn (intellectual things)!