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Jim Glasson

Hearing Loss and String Playing

June 28, 2009 at 12:08 PM

I'm not sure how many readers here have a bit of hearing loss but I guessing I'm in a minority as having some.

As a child of the 60's, I went to many a concert and learned to play (electric) guitar as an extension for my love of the blues. Add to that a hobby of flying Piper Cubs and being around unmuffled engines and I now own a self-inflicted case of hearing loss and some persistent tinnitus.

While my hearing loss isn't severe enough yet for aides of any sort,  I'm finding that my reduced hearing has put a crimp in my confidence to intonate correctly though it appear to have affected my intonation (yet).
As many of you may know, I'm a "newbie" and an adult learner of violin.  As such, I'm forever asking my teacher if I'm voicing notes correctly as I've learned not to trust my hearing completely.

Coincidentally, an article appearing in last months Strad spoke of the success hearing impaired individuals have playing stringed instruments. Some actually taking their hearing aids out and playing BETTER!   There have been many articles written on the plasticity of the brain and it's ability to "rewire" if you will to counter a deficiency such as hearing loss, I try to read them all.

Does anyone else suffer from hearing loss and how do you find your playing to be in this situation?

Any thoughts or comments on hearing loss and playing strings? 
If you have hearing loss, I'd be interested in reading of your experiences while playing.



Posted on June 29, 2009 at 12:22 AM

Some orchestra players do use ear plugs in order to protect their ears. Imagine if you play in the violas last row you have the trumpets just behind you, in general.

From Elinor Estepa
Posted on June 29, 2009 at 1:22 AM

My first violin teacher wears a hearing aid. I actually didn't know that until one afternoon, the phone rings and she have to answers it, and she removed the piece out off her ear, and she wears both ears. The amazing thing about her is that, she teach ALL string instruments plus piano. She tune our instruments before every lesson, and she never fails to be out of tune, her intonations are phenomenal.

Maybe, hearing the notes are not only thru ears but  as always been said are thru your head.

This is an interesting topic to explore.

From Ray Randall
Posted on June 29, 2009 at 4:33 AM

45 years of flying everything from props to jets did my ears in. My hearing loss in both ears is severe. However with two quality hearing aids from a PHD in Audiology has me playing almost as if my hearing loss never happened. They have to be adjusted while you play your instrument, though, otherwise it's a stab in the dark.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on June 29, 2009 at 1:14 PM

Oups, shouldn't read this, I'm quite young and afraid by reading this...   Poor little ears, I need you... !


From Ann Marie Cordial
Posted on June 29, 2009 at 2:11 PM

I'm an adult newbie.  I noticed that playing my violin with my ear right near the F-holes was quite loud.  So I asked my instructor, "Does playing the violin eventually affect your hearing, Raffaele?"


Ok.  Got my answer.  But, when I play my viola, it is SO LOUD I do wear an earplug.

---Ann Marie

From Bill Busen
Posted on June 29, 2009 at 4:26 PM

I'm just here because I like the word intonate.

From Jim Glasson
Posted on June 29, 2009 at 6:18 PM

I really hadn't thought of level of sound whilst playing in an orchestra, stupid of me actually. I imagine that where one is seated it could be quite uncomfortable and ultimately detrimental to ones hearing, no? I wonder if anyone is looking out for orchestral musicians hearing out there?

I've been receiving a few emails all with similar stories.
Some teachers having profound deafness and some perhaps not as much but all playing quite, quite well.
It seems that hearing is just not a function of the ears but a grouping of senses - vibration, touch and the ears. This is fascinating stuff!!!


 I must say those little C65's are LOUD!   I've worn earplugs for years while flying and still I've had a bit of damage. Of course listening and playing rock and roll in my youth didn't help..

Ann Marie:
I'm surprised at how loud my little violin is so when you mention your viola, it must be something!!  I use a small rubber mute now when practicing just to take the "edge" off.


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