My violins are too loud for my hearing.
This is a somewhat new experience for me. I've been playing the violin for over 40 years, and while they've always been loud to me, lately it's actually verging on pain. The sound is distorted and I'm instinctively reluctant to lay into it. However, I can record my playing and the sound is sweet and pleasing on the recordings. I've mostly been a "home alone" player, but when I've played in ensembles I've always found the volume to be uncomfortable. And I've never been comfortable in bars or nightclubs where the sound system is turned up.
I can use a mute, but the violin response is limited. The solution I've found is to simply wear musician's earplugs whenever I'm playing. I've been using Planet Waves Pacato ear plugs, with good effect. I recently purchased some Hearos plugs but haven't tried them yet. Both products attenuate about 12 decibels. Using these earplugs allows me to hear my own playing with a clarity and lack of distortion that makes playing a joy and a pleasure.
What I'm wondering is, should I consider this to be a problem? After all, isn't sensitive hearing a gift to be cherished and guarded. It's a little inconvenient having to put the earplugs in every time, but it's doable. Has anyone else had this experience? For some reason it would be reassuring to know that I'm not the only one.
Lots of people play with musician's earplugs.
You're absolutely right about protecting your hearing. Erik's suggestion works, of course, but is also expensive. Alternatively you can find an old set of over-the-ear headphones at a garage sale and cut off the wire.
Could be tinnitus.
Ear plugs are the easiest way to solve the problem and still allow others to hear you beautiful full sound.
Paul, and Andrew, the earplugs I'm using are only around $12 to $18 a set. They're made for musicians, work fine and I don't think I need custom made ones.
I would recommend Eargasms. They do not need any custom fit and are affordable.
I use cheap 33 decibel noise reduction ear plugs and they cost about a quarter a pair. The less I push them in my ear the less they block the sound so in other words you can vary how much sound you want to actually hear. The ear plugs do not affect my bowing as does the use of a mute.
I have been extremely sensitive to sound for a long long time.
I started using -33 dB foam earplugs years ago -- I can get 10 pairs at the pharmacy for about $5 USD. Today, going without earplugs is, for me, unthinkable. I can't tolerate the volume without them. How anyone else can tolerate it, I can't fathom -- especially with the instrument's sound originating about 3 inches from the ear. And I use the plugs in both ears. The effect is somewhat like hearing myself play from 10 feet away +/ -- not quite the same but similar. What I hear is, at least, more like what the audience hears.
I always wear at least in my left hear a custom fit ear plug (ER-15). They are expensive initially but would never go back to cheap ones. Still cheaper than a hearing aid! It's not so much volume that is most damaging (to a point) but total length of exposure. Several hours a day is a lot of exposure. I just ordered a new pair today. The current pair lasted 10 years, and I wore them practically every day. That is an average cost of $2 per month (even less in the USA), so why bother with cheap COTS ones?
have you tried thin gauge of the same string combo?
Does this sound familiar?
I'm with Jim about movies. I take earplugs to the movies. I thought Mark was talking about those special earplugs that cost hundreds of dollars, sorry to have misinterpreted.
Very interesting, Michael. I read and bookmarked that page. I don't think my problem is quite that severe, but I'm going to keep that on my radar screen. A violin really is very loud and just a few inches away. It shouldn't surprise anyone that it can sometimes be uncomfortable. In fact the whole modern world is pretty darned loud. Thanks for calling that to our attention.
There's nothing wrong with using plugs-but be aware that what may be unfathomable to some, may be normal to others. So I would only recommend them to those who *really* need them. Some (if not many) professional players do without any said tools for many years and do just fine.
As an active professional performing violinist and teacher I think the best few hundred I've ever spent on something is on musician's earplugs. The custom fit at any audiologist appointment and ability to attenuate cleanly at -9, -15, & -25 db. Swapping out attebuaties is extremely useful for a wide range of applications from prolonged practice or teaching days to concerts with amplification or loud percussion. It also helps lessen airplane jet engine noise well too with the -25db plugs!
I use a ear plug in my left ear, and in my right if I am working on double stops (the sound waves are very uncomfortable in my ears). My violin is very loud under the ear where I practice. Interestingly, at my teacher's studio it is not an issue.
Especially in the small room I use for practice the sound volume of my violin exceeds comfort level. Until now I used simple earplugs (foam, wax, or simple cotton wool), the left one tight fit, the right one a bit loose. But I cannot deal with the sound distortion done by them. Now I found those "Alpine MusicSafe Pro" and consider buying them. Has anyone experience with these?
Jim have you tried Musicians' ear plugs? ER-15's or ER-25's?
Funny to read this discussion now...for the last week my ears have been ringing, to the point where I turned off the radio and fan in my car to see if that was it but no, still ringing. I've been practicing almost 3 years, why ringing NOW?
@Mark W. - Haven't tried ER 15's or ER 25's yet. Not sure they'd give the level of protection I like. I thought to myself, during yesterday evening's practice session, using the -33 dB plugs: "I wouldn't want the volume any louder than what I'm getting right now with these." Even Hearos, which I tried for comparison once, didn't provide as good a shield for me.
Will, that is a secret code message for a privileged circle of very advanced violin players!
Agree to disagree-IMHO, "poor diet", drinking, smoking, et. al. are not in the same level of not using ear protection while playing the violin. The latter is individual-dependant, even if it's a strong opinion of yours because you have more sensitive hearing. Plus I bet some violinists who do use ear plugs and the such may have a "poor diet", etc.
Yes, no need to "fight" about this; but all the activities I mentioned, including not wearing ear protection, are potentially damaging. Not all individuals will suffer the ill effects, but the risks of all of these activities are well documented. And they are, as I said, cumulative. They don't show up all at once. My position on this: Why take the risk?
I always wear musicians's earplugs when doing longer practice sessions in my cellar practice room with my loud violin. If I wouldn't, my ears would really hurt. I also use an old, not-so-loud violin in the living room or in the bedroom for shorter flash practice. For these short stints I typically do not bother with the earplugs, but even then sometimes my ears hurt a little bit afterwards. I am 50 years old, yes, after some age you really have to be careful with the violin! But what I have always wondered about is the following. In orchestra rehearsal, I never have a problem and I don't wear the earplugs, it would be awkward, I have to communicate frequently with the conductor, the other violinists, the cellists. Anyway, I don't have a problem with my ears, although I use my loud violin, and there are all the other instruments as well! How can that be? I was thinking it may simply be because the rehearsal hall is much larger than my practice room. But perhaps it could also be some kind of interference? So the sound of the other instruments kind of interferes with the sound of my own instrument and somehow neutralizes it somewhat? I was thinking by analogy to those noise-canceling headphones.
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