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Violins and Hearing Loss

Joshua Iyer

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Published: January 26, 2014 at 11:02 PM [UTC]

Yesterday, while doing some college research, I found a PDF of a book about musicians and hearing loss, and about using ear plugs when you practice so you don't have to worry later in life about hearing loss. Because I can't imagine a life without being able to hear the sound of my violin, I decided to wear my noise-canceling headphones while practicing. Although I can't do this in orchestra class or when taking my violin out and about, such as my friend's house for a duet, I hope that this will help my ears in the future, and if I get into a habit now, maybe it would be a good thing. And I can buy an actual earplug for my left ear, since that is the ear that can get the most damage, since it's right next to the violin. I'm trying not to worry too much, as I'm just 17, but still.

Anyways, I tried it out today, and it's so weird! I don't think I'll be able to get used to this... Well, what do you guys think? Is my strategy good? Should I be worried? Cause I kind of am, now... Thanks a lot!

As a side note, I've been making up a wiki website for my film, The King of the Aliens, so if you want to know more about the film I hope to make this summer, click on the link below. I talk about aspects of the film's (actually very complex) plot, and the music, which includes the symphony I posted tons about back in September 2013. Thanks again!

The King of the Aliens Wiki

From Jim Hastings
Posted on January 27, 2014 at 12:49 AM
"I'm trying not to worry too much, as I'm just 17, but still."

More power to you. It's never too soon starting thinking about this. I've used earplugs -- both ears -- for some years during practice as a commonsensical preventive measure. They cut down the decibels to a safe level. I hear everything from the instrument that I need to hear -- it sounds to me more as it would sound to the audience. In the garage, I can still pick up the reverb.

I've always hated noise. Loud noises, to me, are just plain annoying -- well before they reach the danger zone.

Never tried noise-canceling headphones -- too much bulk -- and not sure what kind of earplugs you have in mind; but I know there are plugs for musicians at Etymotic Research. Check them out.

Posted on January 27, 2014 at 4:28 PM
They make earplugs for musicians: etymotics (I think) are supposed to cut down the decibels, but maintain the frequency balance (noramal earplugs cut down more of the higher frequencies, thereby distorting the "proper" sound you should be hearing.

I havent got mine yet, but I have been practicing for the last couple of months with an earplug in my left ear every practice.

Posted on January 27, 2014 at 7:41 PM
Hi Kevin,
Get the etymotics (or equivalent high fidelity ear plugs from Hearos or other brands). 10-15 bucks and you can reuse them for a LONG time. I wear them whenever I take out the violin--practice, orchestra, lesson, jamming, whatever. I also use a rubber mute when I have an extra long practice session (with earplugs in). Get used to them by wearing them as much as possible (while driving, at bars or loud restaurants, at the movie theater, etc). Soon they will be normal.

You will thank yourself in 10 years :)

From Christina C.
Posted on January 27, 2014 at 9:08 PM

From Paul Deck
Posted on January 27, 2014 at 9:19 PM
Those etymotic "earplugs" are $400. Is that what you were referring to, Jim?
Posted on January 27, 2014 at 9:22 PM
Don't know about Jim, but I use the over-the-counter Etymotics and they are fine. The $400 ones are, I believe, custom fitted. The otc ones have a series of 'fins' and thus are more comfortable (for me) than foam; they also don't deaden, but lessen sounds.
From Jim Hastings
Posted on January 27, 2014 at 11:06 PM
@ Paul: I use the OTC variety -- same basic kind I started with in 1992 for gym workouts. Don't know about Etymotic's prices -- just a general idea of their products -- haven't checked out the $400 sort.
From David Rowland
Posted on January 28, 2014 at 12:09 AM
I had a set of earplugs made at a local audiologist that use the Etymotic Research filters for around $200.

I sit near the percussion section in our orchestra and am often near the flute/piccolo. After one rehearsal, my ears hurt, which prompted me to get the ER ear plugs made.

The ER filters are nice because the dampen sound evenly across the spectrum. The cheap foam plugs are more effective but distort the sound.

I do wear my earplugs when practicing my on my acoustic violin because I find it quite loud in my small practice room.

The ER earplugs are also great to have when going to movies, concerts, etc.

From Joshua Iyer
Posted on January 28, 2014 at 1:38 AM
Thanks a lot for all the help and advice! Yes, I really hope I'll be able to get some sort of ear plugs that could help. My headphones do act as ear plugs, but they are large and clunky, and I found today when practicing a passage of music with sixteenth notes the headphones would 'clunk' to my bow, although that just may be me. Thanks again! :)


From Amanda Andrews
Posted on January 28, 2014 at 2:12 AM
Have you ever tried a practice mute? They make really heavy metal ones that fit over the bridge. They cut down on the sound considerably.
From Joshua Iyer
Posted on January 28, 2014 at 3:16 AM

Yes, I've used a practice mute before in the past. Maybe that would work better when I'm practicing. I also have my normal mute for if it's needed in pieces. I think using a mute may be better for me because using ear plugs does sometimes irritate me because of how much other sound they block out as well. Yeah, I'll try it out later tonight or tomorrow morning. Thanks for the tip! :)

From jean dubuisson
Posted on January 28, 2014 at 10:59 AM
The trouble with using a metal mute is that it influences the bowing. You will notice that the bow is less jumpy on spiccato, for instance. So the danger is that you practice the piece constantly using a metal mute, adapting to the bowing characteristics, then play without the metal mute and your bowing becomes uncontrolled.

So, musician's airplugs are the answer. They don't have to cost 200$ however. I use Alpine ( which are reasonably priced.

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