Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

I keep reading in forums that just from practicing violin you can damage your hearing? Is this a serious risk? I have been playing only about 2 years but I practice 3-4 hours a day. I tried using some cheaper hearos earplugs I had around just in the left ear, but I don’t like how they alter the sound. Can I damage my ears just from practicing?

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Welcome Spitty.

No.

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Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

I wouldn’t be so sure, Ergo. A fiddle can throw out a lot of sound, and it comes out right below your left ear, so I think it is quite probable that it can and does cause some hearing damage. That said, many people play fiddle/violin all their lives and still have good enough hearing to be able to play well into their old age - there are probably other occupations and pastimes that systematically cause much more serious hearing damage.

If you are concerned about hearing damage, SpittyCats, there are numerous ‘musician’s earplugs’ on the market, which ostensibly damp evenly across the entire audible frequency range, thus lowering the sound level but not altering the sound quality. I have not tried any (although perhaps I should), so I cannot recommend any particular ones, but it would be worth looking at what is available (they seem to range in price from single to triple figures).

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Which are these forums that produce such weird ideas?

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Whaaaat?

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

WHat??? Get off my lawn.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

I wear musician’s plugs, the custom molded type, to practice and lessons and also sessions. They cost a bit less than 200 USD but i have tinnitus and they help alot. They sound great, too. (Tinnitus from my rock days, not trad, mind.)

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Depends on whether you trust this source, but, yeah:

http://www.hearnet.com/at_risk/risk_trivia.shtml

From personal experience, I’ve played for over 20 years. Sometimes it feels like my hearing is different in my left ear. Don’t know that I’d say it’s wrecked, but I definitely notice pain sometimes.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Yes, you probably can suffer hearing loss practicing the fiddle. And you probably can catch STDs from toilet seats.

You can also get hearing loss from simply growing older, and there are plenty of 70 year old professional violinists about who have practiced eight hours a day for sixty years without ill effect, so it’s probably a risk worth taking.

But one thing that is certain is that you are wasting your time practicing with ear plugs in, because you’ll never know how bad you really sound.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

It depends on the sound level (dbA) being produced by your playing but 3-4 hrs a day will increase the risk. I use hearing protection (musicians earplugs) for practising, sessions and sometimes gigs, i can still hear everything but it’s quieter. Sessions are very loud without them. I wouldn’t be surprised if 3-4 hrs practice plus a session would put you above the occupational recommended noise level (UK) guidance. I’ve been playing whistle for over 10 yes and been protecting my hearing for nearly 2yrs now, wish I’d started sooner. On balance, I’d say yes, there is a risk of hearing damage.

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Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

YES YOU CAN.

Fiddles can produce above 100db at you left ear, this is a level that can cause damage.
Lots of factors involved, not least the power of the fiddle and how you play.

I use these when practicing in a quite room with my very powerful acoustic fiddle.
UK - http://etymoticdirect.co.uk/hearing-protection/etymotic-mp15-earplugs
US - http://www.etymotic.com/consumer/hearing-protection/mp915.html


They are expensive but they are phenomenally accurate, I also use them for gigs.
Most people will choses to ignore this advice, as I did many years ago when I had better hearing…

…eh, what was that advice you just gave???

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

I asked my doctor a while ago about this. He told me that all musicians should wear hearing protection. He indicated that the biggest concern isn’t general hearing loss but a restriction in hearing range. In otherwords, you’re not likely going to go deaf but you’ll lose the highest highs and lowest lows.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

I’ve just done a little experiment with a calibrated mic gaffa taped to the side of my head. Playing as loud as I possibly can produces about 105dBA. Playing normally produces peaks of 80-85dBA, but averages below 80.

So on paper, according to the HSA if you were to play fortissimo continuously for more than two minutes you would need ear protection, but you could play normally continuously for eight hour without protection. But the HSE safe limits are based on continuous noise from machinery. When playing music the high SPLs only occur as brief bursts, and the ear recovers very quickly with no damage.

‘Hearing loss’ normally means a restriction in range, it’s always the high frequencies you lose first (except in some industrial situations where you are continuously subjected to a single frequency, where your hearing can develop a notch at that frequency). It is a natural process that happens to everyone as they age, although continuous high level noise exposure can accelerate the process. Over 40% of the population over 50 have lost 20dB or more at high frequencies. But if you wear ear plugs the effect is the same - if they are doing their job the plugs will be reducing high frequencies, so you can hear if you are playing in tune or not, but can’t judge what your timbre is like.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Sound advice.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Yes you can.
My doctor and consultant said so.
The MU says so and offers assesment.
I wear noise reducers now as well.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Mark M wrote:
"But if you wear ear plugs the effect is the same - if they are doing their job the plugs will be reducing high frequencies, so you can hear if you are playing in tune or not, but can’t judge what your timbre is like."

I rarely play with ear plugs but when I do, I notice that my intonation (or my perception of it?) is a lot worse. I once played in rather crowded and noisy session (with a button accordion to my left and a set of uilleann pipes to my right, to begin with). I basically HAD TO use ear plugs, but man, I’ve never played worse than that. 16 years of experience was thrown out the window. My fiddle was in tune and I played in tune, but what I heard came out nearly a semitone off. Strange.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

I think you can get hearing loss from playing any loud instrument. The other thing is - you can have quite a fair amount of loss (eg as shown in an audiogram) before it even becomes noticeable to you.

The other problem is that many people don’t realise how much hearing damage can occur, because the greater your hearing capacity is, the greater your volume tolerance level is. So, damage to the cochlear hair cells can happen gradually without you realising. The tolerance level decreases with hearing loss too.

I was at one of the Fiddle Hells, and three guys were playing the ‘Czardas’ by Monti. When it came to the high-pitched artificial harmonics, one the guys (I guess he was in his fifties) dropped out. Not because he couldn’t play them, but because he couldn’t hear them properly over all the other players and pub noise, and that was his first realisation that he had hearing loss.

Another little test is how much you hear the bow ‘zizz’ as it moves across the strings. I can remember being young, with pretty much perfect hearing, and it was quite loud and intrusive. How loud is it to you guys? I know the brain tends to acclimatise and effectively filter out the noise (as it’s there all the time), but how well do you actually hear it if you listen for it?

As for the 70 year old professional violinists having no ill-effects or hearing loss, I’m not so sure. With the ‘big boys’, hearing loss is something they’d really want not to be made public. If you watch some of them playing, they look like they are in a different world, head cocked to the left, eyes closed, elegantly elevated by the music. I reckon it’s more a case of having their ear as close as possible to the violin, so they can hear what’s going on - being able to hear themselves over the sound of the orchestra. There were a few discussions too on violinist.com about this.

In principle, I think musician’s ear plugs are a good idea. How much you use them is up to you, of course, but it’s good to be aware of the damage high volumes can do. Hearing loss by cochlear damage is irreversible too (obviously).

As for what you hear when using the plugs, I would fully expect the perception of sound/pitch to be different, if the natural passage of the ear canal is blocked.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

I was learning fiddle but stopped after a couple of months. I started having problems with my hearing in my left ear and a some pain, too.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

I can’t help but wonder how all the old Irish guys and ladies managed without ear plugs. I just can’t.

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Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

"I can’t help but wonder how all the old Irish guys and ladies managed without ear plugs. I just can’t."

Two possibilities:

1) Those old Irish guys and ladies didn’t have access to regular hearing checkups, or a resource like the Internet to learn about potential hearing damage. It was assumed that old folks might be hard of hearing. Fewer people worried about it instead of trying to avoid it, which is the modern trend. But I think it’s mainly the next one:

2) Older players were more likely to be using inexpensive fiddles, family hand-me-downs or whatever they could scrape together. They just weren’t as loud as what you can get today in an affordable PacRim fiddle, let alone something from a good independent luthier. Strings were not changed very often either, played until the windings fell apart because they were so expensive, or gut strings that were quieter. I’ve heard a few old-timers play, and been impressed by how quiet their fiddles are, compared to some of the fiddles I hear in current sessions.

It’s not just the fiddles either… modern versions of trad instruments from whistles to flutes to box and pipes all have been researched and optimized for good volume, and everyone is trying to be heard above everyone else so it’s a positive feedback loop. I fell into that myself, choosing a Pratten style flute because I wanted to be sure it could be heard in local sessions. It’s so loud and so close to my ear that if I wasn’t an old fart I’d be worried about hearing damage. As it is, I probably don’t have enough years left to worry about it. 🙂

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

The other mechanism worth mentioning is that musicians have better listening skills in general, so suffer less from the same degree of hearing loss, to a certain extent.

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Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

I’ve heard fiddlers who made me wish I had hearing loss…

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

I have seen old photographs of a virtuoso violinist practicing with his ears stuffed with cotton, or what the British call cotton wool. The fact of the matter is that you don’t miss your water til the well runs dry. Don’t ask anyone under 30 about hearing loss, most have no idea what you are talking about. Like your knees, your ears are wearing out, its just a matter of time. If you want them to last as long as possible, use ear protection when subjected to constant piercing sound. Practice with ear protection, but remove it for brief periods to maintain a sense of normal tone. You don’t need to spend a lot of money, regular industrial foam plugs are fine. Don’t let prima donnas tell you otherwise.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Good job I’m not easily offended. 🙂

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

"Like your knees, your ears are wearing out, its just a matter of time…."

Now that you mention it, my knees do hurt a little on the high rolls.

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Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Yes. Take it from someone who learned this the hard way. Protect your ears.
On the other hand, we don’t get anything for nothing. No love without the occasional broken heart. Better to have played and lost than never to have played. Hearing loss is just one of those marks along the road to understanding that life, even a musical life, is a terminal condition.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

You got hearing loss just from practicing fiddle, jackmccann2?

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

FWIW, I was once told to always practice with a mute. I’ve done that for decades, and my wife probably appreciates it, although she’s too kind to say.

In fact, I’ve got several mutes, one that’s heavy enough to allow practice in a motel room.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

I was told not to, even if Yehudi Menuhin advocates it in his book, as I would never be good enough to practice without hearing my proper tone.

Your choice!
I would advocate to just play mezzoforte and you’ll be golden.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Sometimes I use a mute to practice, I like the different sounds I get, and it is gentler on those around me.
If you play next to a loud drummer, a flautist, a strong vocalist, an amplified guitar, a banjo or accordion, or in a bar where people shout to have conversation over your head, you might need to worry about hearing loss. ;-/. Otherwise, I think that ear plugs could compromise the quality of sound you produce. Fiddling is a risky business all around.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

The little Tourte ‘performance’ mute is good if you just want to take the edge off the sound, rather than the more severe clamp types that go over the bridge and deaden the sound significantly.

It’s easier to use too, and it stays on the instrument when not in use.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Yes. I’ve been working in a fairly noisy factory for forty years where hearing protection is mandatory whether you’re working at the equipment or in and out of an office on the floor as I am. We are checked by an audiologist annually. My hearing levels are normal for a person of my age, however, my left ear has a hearing loss greater than my right. Both my doctor and audiologist attribute this to fiddle playing. I find the rubber mute that fits on the bridge to be useful for extended late night practices allowing me to hear both a recording of the tune I’m working on as well as my fiddle.
BTW I finally convinced a young drummer in a metal band in my mill he needs to keep wearing his hearing protection at work as well as during practices and performances.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

absolutely NOT

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Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Yes. I just had a hearing test. My left ear has a big dip at ~4 KHz. Taking all my various exposure into account, I can only blame the fiddle at this point. I am 57 years old fwiw.

Terry

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

Many classical violinist report hearing loss in one ear. It’s pretty common.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

I wonder about some people.

People have been stating that tests and medical practioners show that playing music leads to hearing loss. Unsolicited responses.

Others refuse to believe this because … they know better or deafness is worth ‘it’ or they don’t know any real, genuine players who are losing their hearing. I wonder about some people.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

If yer concerned ‘bout it, you could balance your hearing loss by playing banjo on stage with the monitors turned full up… eh, whats ‘at 😉

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

>>"People have been stating that tests and medical practioners show that playing music leads to hearing loss. Unsolicited responses."

No, they state that playing music CAN contribute to hearing loss, not that it DOES. So can mowing your lawn, hoovering or dealing with a screaming baby.

Falling down stairs can lead to a cracked skull and brain damage, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to put on a crash helmet every time I climb the stairs. What is needed is a bit of common sense rather than a total over reaction to every safety warning you don’t fully understand. Yes, if you’re practicing in a symphony orchestra or heavy metal band for eight hours a day every day then ear protection might be prudent, but for noodling in your bedroom for a few hours at a time? You’re wearing a helmet to climb the stairs.

Re: Can I get hearing loss from practicing fiddle?

One of my cousins had suffered from hearing loss after practicing the fiddle. She said it depends on the sound level that is being produced while practicing.
I think it’s better to use musician earplugs while practicing. My cousin was so careless regarding this and it has affected her life. She is using hearing aids as suggested by her audiologist in Toronto ( https://houseofhearing.ca/audiologist/ ). Precaution is better than cure. Also, consult a good audiologist in your locality and undergo a proper test before getting ear plugs.