Hearing fatigue

Hearing fatigue

Hello, I hope you are all well and safe.
Playing my D fife indoor at home, I am experiencing a certain hearing fatigue at the end of each practice, even though I am using earplugs that should filter the higher frequences.
Have you got any advice to avoid the problem?
Lola

Re: Hearing fatigue

what kind of earplugs are you using?
I have custom made ones that cut out 15dB, can go to 20. I wouldn’t normally tell everyone to shell out that kind of cash but you seem to be affected so might be worth it. I got mine from the hearing aid shop. I would get a cottony feeling especially in my left ear so I just don’t want to chance it (we measured and I can put out 95 dB on my fiddle).

Re: Hearing fatigue

Thanks for the advice! I am using Earprotect earplugs that should cut out 26db. Maybe it’s a problem given by playing in an ordinary flatroom.

Re: Hearing fatigue

Do you experience ringing or other auditory effects? If you sit in complete silence after playing, do you feel as if you can still hear your instrument being played as if far away?

A fife being driven at full blast indoors is loud, so I can easily believe you are hurting your ears. On the other hand, your earplugs should be completely eliminating any effect. So I suspect either you aren’t fitting them properly *or* your ears are playing tricks on you after you remove them.

One thing that might be worth trying is spend some time wearing the earplugs when not playing for an hour or two to see what the effect is. I used to take them in and out all the time when I wore them, then realised that doing so confused my brain/ear interface. Once you get used to leaving them in, it’s fine.

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Re: Hearing fatigue

Thanks, Calum. I don’t hear any ringing bells after the practice, it’s more like when you talk to much and your throat is a bit sore…
I suppose I was overdoing lately cause I have been practicibg both the piccolo and the fife.

Re: Hearing fatigue

Lola, take care of your hearing! I’ve played whistle for 35 years and get some fatigue from it, but I took up a fife at one point and it was really hard on my hearing. Mine seemed to generate more irritating overtones than my whistles do and I gave it up.

Practicing in a "soft" room can help. Hard surfaces almost amplify the overtones. I practice in a room with a large rug and two sofas that absorb much of the sound. It’s much more enjoyable than a room with hard surfaces and lots of bounce.

Re: Hearing fatigue

Thanks all for sympathising!
It’s sad cause I love the fife but I was also thinking of the opportunity to skip to a D flute but I am worried the holes are too apart and it’s difficult to play cause I don’t have big hands! Music for me is vital but I have decided that, doing it as a hobby, I have to be optimistic and I might also change the tone of the instrument to feel better (my modern transverse flute does not affect my hearing).
Any advice about an Irish D flute, as well?

Re: Hearing fatigue

It sounds to me like it may be just that your earplugs are not quite the right size and are irritating you - I don’t know if it’s usual for women to have narrower ear canals on average but in my limited experience I think it is the case.

On flute, I think if you can handle a transverse Boehm style flute you would be fine with an open flute, certainly not far away. You might like to look at Hammy Hamilton’s "practice" flute, which would be an inexpensive way of trying it out.

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Re: Hearing fatigue

I thought of an irritation so I bought a pair of ordinary foam earplugs. The size fits better but I cannot hear myself properly. I might record myself but it’s strange and not very rewarding… :(
I am trying to find a way out of this unexpected problem, but I still have no idea…

Re: Hearing fatigue

I think you should bin the fife and go for a D flute. Small hands need not be a problem. I have small hands, but play Rudall flutes, an Olwell Pratten, and a Wooff C chanter without problem. Here in Sweden Tim Adams makes economically priced D flutes and lets you try the flute first with the option of returning it if you’re not happy with it. http://adams.se/flutemaker/

Re: Hearing fatigue

Thanks Steamwilkes for the link.
In the end I am starting to think that a D flute might be the right idea especially playing inside. I can play a D flute indoor and a D fife outdoor ;) :D

Re: Hearing fatigue

After trying various earplugs (none professional) to protect my fading hearing from the banjo, I finally got a very good ($250) set of over-ear noise-cancelling headphones (not wireless, so I can use them on airplanes, etc as well) and they are great. When switched on, I can just hear enough to be able to still practice effectively. Extremely comfortable (Bose) and even switched off they block a lot of the sound.

Re: Hearing fatigue

I’ve recently gotten into the habit of wearing some kind of hearing protection when I practice the fiddle. It doesn’t have to be anything heavy-duty… just a regular pair of lightweight headphones or earbuds (not connected to anything), and that seems to be enough to attenuate the sound to a comfortable level. Sometimes I’ll only wear one in the left ear.

I’m not sure if this is a good idea or a terrible idea. Obviously it seems questionable since it means I’m not hearing the "true" sound of the fiddle, but on the other hand… people listening to a fiddle performance do not have their ears three inches away from the f-hole, so you could argue that what when I’m practicing *without* hearing protection, I’m also not hearing the "true" sound of the fiddle (i.e. I’m not hearing what the audience hears).

Whether the idea is good or bad, it seems to make practicing more enjoyable. The sound of a fiddle three inches from your ear can get very fatiguing (Nigel Kennedy makes the same observation in his autobiography). I also know that, physiologically speaking, very loud sound levels tend to distort your perception— for one thing, there is a small muscle in your middle ear that "clenches up" to prevent excessive sound transmission to the cochlea. (This is why people with Bell’s palsy sometimes experience hyperacusis, or over-sensitive hearing, on the affected side— it’s because that little muscle isn’t working). In other words, beyond a certain level, an increase in volume causes you to hear things *less* well.

I also wonder if it improves my playing, since it makes me less inhibited about using dynamics.

But I have to say that in my years of fiddle playing (both ITM and classical) I can’t recall meeting another fiddler who did this. So maybe it’s not as good an idea as I think it is…

Re: Hearing fatigue

"In the end I am starting to think that a D flute might be the right idea especially playing inside. I can play a D flute indoor and a D fife outdoor ;) :D"

Yes, I think definitely take up a D flute as it will be much easier on the ears. If you start to play Irish traditional tunes then you’ll seldom have to venture into the third octave.