Ringing in ears?

September 1, 2007 at 03:07 AM · Has anyone else noticed a ringing in their left ear after playing violin for a number of years? Occasionally I will hear it, always in my left ear.

I heard ringing is a sign of hearing damage, though I don't listen to loud music on my headphones, and usually cover my ears when an ambulance or other loud vehicle passes. Just wondering?

Replies (58)

September 1, 2007 at 04:48 AM · It's possible you've done some damage over the years. The left ear is very clse to the violin, and it's of some significance that that is the ear with the ringing.

A simple hearing test can be performed to ascertain the amount of hearing loss you may have suffered.

Tinnitus is a condition that has many possible causes. For a ringing in only one ear, there may be other explanations of the phenomenon. I'd suggest you consult a physician who can arrange for some testing.

There are earplugs that can be obtained to attenuate the sound pressure in your left ear. Some are made with molds of your ear canal, and have inserts that can provide various levels of sound attenuation. If the violin is the source of your problem, you'd want to find out, and arrange to prevent further damage.

Etymotic is the company that makes the earplugs of which I wrote. You can google them, if you wish.

September 1, 2007 at 03:48 AM · Yea, I have a ringing in my left ear that's permanent (tinnitus). You might want to practice with an earplug slightly inside your left ear (if you put it in completely, the sound will be pretty off-balanced) so you don't exacerbate the condition.

September 1, 2007 at 05:01 AM · Sure do have a ringing in the ears ! Both of 'em. Unfortunately, mine is a slightly sharp B natural that doesn't even serve well as the dominant in Bach's 2nd fiddle concerto, or a tuning reference.

Medical folks offer no clue or cure,other than that it is most likely hereditary rather than from the violin. Mine never was apparent til having played for over 50 years. Wish I could offer more hope or information.

September 1, 2007 at 05:21 AM · I've experienced ringing in both my ears since I was a little kid. Though, I think mine's more of a nerve thing, as everything else in the room will kind of get muffled or go quiet, while there's just a high-pitched whine that gets progressively louder. It always lasts for about ten to thirty seconds, then goes away. It'll be interesting to see if I develop something else altogether different/worse in my left ear over time as I keep playing. :)

September 1, 2007 at 06:41 AM · I'm about half deaf, can't stand loud, especially shrill noises, and constantly muffle them when I can. But no, no ringing. My grandma was nearly a hundred percent deaf, as are many of my family. I learned American Sign alphabet pretty proficiently as a child just in case. So if my hand starts making strange shapes when I'm talking, I'm probably cursing someone out.

September 1, 2007 at 12:48 PM · One of my teachers stuffs some cotton in his left ear, even with hearing loss from years playing amplified rock and Cajun. High-tech earplugs sound like a good idea. I wonder if folks who hold their heads tilted more to the left do more damage than those of us with almost-straight head position? Sue

September 1, 2007 at 12:58 PM · I hate the thought of plugging in my ear when I'm playing, but maybe the other ear will begin to hear twice as well in the process and should I take out the plug, my hearing might have improved?

I know this sounds a little far-fetched and I don't think I'm going to wear earplugs when I play because it just isn't that loud on the whole scale of decibals.

September 1, 2007 at 03:39 PM · Your hearing will not improve, if it is damaged.

Unilateral tinnitus is infrequently caused by a tumor, which is why it's a good idea to get it checked out.

September 1, 2007 at 04:25 PM · I have ringing in both ears, pretty loud, whenever I play for more than hour. I don't think that it's ear damage, because I'm only 16 and I've only been playing for eight years. I've never thought it was anything serious.

September 1, 2007 at 05:05 PM · OK I didn't mean my hearing would improve, I meant my listening ability would be heightened in the unplugged ear.

September 1, 2007 at 06:42 PM · I've heard this can be caused by tension in the neck/shoulders/jaw. You might want to look into that too.

September 1, 2007 at 08:17 PM · Tinnitis is tinnitis and people get it as they get older. I don't know how old you are, Catherine, but I'm 44 and I started getting it last year (making me wonder if 2 years of playing the violin could be taking its toll, but mine is in the left ear). I once quizzed friends at a dinner party and out of 8, 3 of us had some mild tinnitis.

There is a more dramatic form of tinnitis, and actually my sister's started getting worse and worse (it originated 20 yrs earlier after a bad ear infection) and, as Bob said could happen, the issue of a tumor came up. She had what is called an accoustic neuroma, a benign tumor lodged btwn the 6th and 7th cranial nerve, or something like that, which was also affecting her balance and hearing. Long story short, the tumor is gone, the hearing on her right side is gone - sadly, they had to clip a facial nerve to get the tumor. But catch this - she still has the tinnitis. Worse than ever. How's that for lousy luck?

Anyway, my friends and I consider our mild tinnitis to simply be a fact of life. Sounds like yours might be the same. If you find you're feeling very dizzy or it worsens quickly, I'd see a MD.

September 1, 2007 at 08:35 PM · Terez,

It's true that tinnitus is more likely to occur as people get older, but it's not a condition that is linked with age. Younger people (like me; I'm 19) are just as likely to get tinnitus as older people are. Isn't that terrible?

September 1, 2007 at 09:49 PM · Try cutting out coffee and cafinated tea. It excites the nerves in the ear drums and will often cause ringing and eventual hearing loss. Wear those noise cancelling ear muffs if you can find them on airplanes etc. I read you loose a small % of your hearing every time you take off in an airplane.

September 2, 2007 at 01:12 AM · I also have Tinnitus. My ENT recommended a low-sodium diet (which is beneficial overall) which has helped me.

September 2, 2007 at 04:19 AM · >It's true that tinnitus is more likely to occur as people get older, but it's not a condition that is linked with age. Younger people (like me; I'm 19) are just as likely to get tinnitus as older people are. Isn't that terrible?

Julie - ugh, you have my sympathies. And I suppose my sister had the same issue - getting it back in her college years, I think, after an ear infection. I'm suddenly feeling like I myself have a very tiny problem here. Which is a good feeling, actually.

A poll among those with tinnitis: is the sound you hear like a halogen lamp, an electronic appliance left on, or is it like summertime bugs? (These are both descrips that came up when I talked with my friends.) Mine is the whine of an old halogen lamp. For weeks, I assumed it was simply some lamp left on very low that I'd forgotten to turn off.

September 2, 2007 at 01:39 PM · I get it very occasionally, more often when I was younger and playing more frequently. For me, it tended to be associated with playing or listening to really high notes on the E string. Come to think of it, I haven't noticed it as much since I started playing the viola more regularly than the violin.

September 3, 2007 at 07:38 AM · Mine sounds like an electric appliance left on. Sometimes in between the noise I get high-pitched rings that sound like mosquitoes.

September 3, 2007 at 07:53 AM · I got tinnitus as a child, up to my teens. It was almost always loudest at night. It would start out a low warble, and grow into a really loud wall of sound (in my head, of course). It's not a sound I've heard elsewhere, but it's somewhat approximated the dissonance tornado sirens might make in quarter tones. As I've gotten older, these experiences have become more sparse, thankfully.

September 3, 2007 at 12:09 PM · I suppose I feel a little better at not being the only musician with some ringing. It's not all the time and it's not bad....I've gathered that it's normal.

Mine just sounds like a _______, maybe an insect without the buzz. I'll pay more attention to it next time it happens, usually after a long practice session.

September 5, 2007 at 05:49 PM · This is a message for all musician:In order to reduce the risk of professionnal hearing loss noise exposure must be inferior to 8 hours and intensity inferior to 75 Db. A heavy mute is an useful device

September 5, 2007 at 06:11 PM · "75 dB"

is that dBA, dBB or dBC? dBA is the usual measure.

OSHA isn't as low as 75. For 8 hour exposure, it is 85 TWA dBA slow response, and 90 dBA slow response using Octave Band A weight equivalency.

September 6, 2007 at 02:45 AM · i put a cotton ball in my left ear. My violin is extremely loud, and it works fine for me. I would try it out...

September 6, 2007 at 03:06 AM · Greeitngs,

I don`t have cotton balls. Would a dried prune do?

Cheers,

Buri

September 6, 2007 at 10:50 AM · My mistake , it is 75 dB (Decibel)

Cotton is not advisable since it blocks the cerumen (earwax) and my lead to complete obstruction of the auditory meatus

September 6, 2007 at 01:21 PM · Alan:

Where does your 75 dB figure come from? And which decibel scale--A-weighted, B-weighted, C-weighted, or some other?

September 6, 2007 at 02:22 PM · Buri,

Do you own a warehouse full of prunes? Just wondered ...

What other uses do they have?

Answers on a postcard please...

September 6, 2007 at 07:01 PM · no ringing ears, but sometimes itchy feet after I stop playing ;-)

September 7, 2007 at 07:10 AM · Bilbo:

75 dB and 8 hours exposure time are World Health Organization norms concerning Noise at work ie aleatory ,erratic mixture of vibrations

September 7, 2007 at 12:58 PM · Alain:

Would this be the document:

http://dosei.who.int/uhtbin/cgisirsi/kcLYzXNSfr/230790035/9

September 8, 2007 at 04:45 PM · Frankly,I don't know .Does it really matter?

Those norms are international ,known and admitted by almost every ENT doctors and preventive medecine.

You may consult any site that deals with professional deafness .

September 9, 2007 at 12:18 AM · Yes, it does matter. 75 dB (and assuming A scale) is 1/10th the sound energy of 85 dBA--and the latter is the OSHA published 8-hour exposure limit.

85 is quite easy to build below in, say, a car, but 75 is a real challenge. I have measured a number of cars interior sound levels, and mid-70s is common for 70 MPH (112 kmh).

If OSHA allows 85 dBA for 8-hour TWA (time-weighted average) on a slow resonse sample, I would hope that that would be found to be acceptable from a long term damage prevention standpoint. That is after all the whole point of the OSHA standards--which further spell out testing protocols and describe "threshold shifts" as a sign of damage.

If on the other hand your "international" standard of 75 dB (and scale unknown) is the maximum without ear damage, then wouldn't we have a problem? And why would the "international" standard be a factor of ten different from the U.S. OSHA?

It most definitely matters. Stating numbers without sources, and without understanding them or revealing your limitations of understanding, is a form of misinformation.

September 9, 2007 at 04:50 PM · I am afraid you mix up two things :1-the legal aspect which states the limit at 85 dB and 8 hours exposure

2- the medical risk which is below those norms but that are not economically realistic

September 9, 2007 at 05:16 PM · the other thing to keep in mind is that those industrial standards may not be applicable to a violin player because when you play violin, you get both sensory and bony conduction, that is, the level received by your ears is a cumulative product of both sound wave in the air as well as bony tranmission (thru the jaw bone/collar bone eventually into the inner ear). my guess is that the final impact to the inner ear has been underestimated.

September 11, 2007 at 03:41 AM · Do you by chance hold the violin nearly perpendicular to the side of your head?

I've had this theory now for about seven years that ear ringing is caused by uneven hearing...in other words, one ear is being deprived of a large majority, if not all of, the sound that the other ear is receiving. I forget which one is supposed to ring based on that theory... :)

September 11, 2007 at 03:58 AM · don@t ring us. We`ll ring you...

September 11, 2007 at 11:47 AM · Rob:did your theory refer hearing loss?

Ent doctors use the Webers'test to determine if hearing loss is due to damage of the interne hear(surdity of perception) or to medium hear disturbance (glued ossicle,perforation of the eardrum )Surdity of transmission).

A tune fork is place at the middle of the forehead.If the vibrations are perceived by the ill ear (through bone conduction)the cause is a transmission problem) . If the vibrations are perceived by the normal ear (also by bone conduction)then the cause is a destruction of the interne ear.

September 11, 2007 at 12:42 PM · Take a look at this:-

http://cec.concordia.ca/econtact/9_4/saario.html

I have found it has helped my own tinnitus.

gc

September 11, 2007 at 09:45 PM · Alain:

I was reminded today, by a noisy computer in my discrete math class, of the basis of my theory. (Originally I noticed it while watching a movie in a room with a poor acoustic setup...sad to say it was a BAND ROOM with poor acoustic setup...)

While listening to the lecture this afternoon, I suddenly became aware that my left ear decided to stop listening, since the right ear was receiving more activity than the left, due to a loud Solaris system server in the room located to my right.

Unfortunately, I then remembered that the temporary one-sided hearing loss was not quite the same as the ear ringtone that is being discussed, and considered apologizing profusely for contributing valueless information to the topic, but decided to elaborate instead, should this happen to help someone solve the mystery.

By the way, I have noticed that this temporary one-sided hearing loss is easily corrected by opening the Eustachian tube (yawn...it's the little click you hear in each ear) and turning my head a bit in order to equally distribute the noise level. However, I can't say I get the ringing very often and hope this isn't too off topic.

Hope this helps.

November 22, 2010 at 10:54 AM ·

Here is a link to a recent article in Discover Magazine about the deep-brain aspects of tinnitus, discussing how it is rooted in the way we process and understand sound using neural networks deep within the brain.

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/oct/26-ringing-in-the-ears-goes-much-deeper 

November 22, 2010 at 09:27 PM ·

I have tinnitus which is constant, both ears, can be very bothersome. Thank you for posting the link to cec, I will be trying these excercises. It is nice to know that there is at least something to do to try to lessen this annoying symptom.

November 23, 2010 at 03:12 AM ·

Preventing  hearing damage

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081110112103.htm

http://www.articlesbase.com/hearing-articles/tinnitus-cures-are-food-allergies-to-blame-for-your-ears-ringing-1793264.html

Foods I eat 3 times a week or more  to protect my hearing

cod liver oil pill twice a week

I try to eat spinach every day

oatmeal with apple, blueberries,Cinnamon,and coconut oil -everyday

croûtons made with whole wheat bread ,olive oil,fresh  basil ,garlic and fresh rosemary -everyday

mixed nuts and seeds -everyday

green tea - twice a day

fresh ginger ,lemon , 50 mg zinc , B12, honey  tea - everyday

Foods that will harm your ears ;

refine sugars ,hydrogenated oils ,alcohol , white refined foods -white bread , white rice  etc...processed meats

 

 

November 23, 2010 at 10:36 AM ·

I too have ringing - had it since child hood but its urually not so bad that it bothers me.  It does, however, get worse with persistent loud sound so I am very scared of noises - be they sirens, road works etc.  But worst of all is loud music.

Its an issue for my practise studio - and why I have to add damping materials.  Violin may be one of the worst instruments since its so darn high pitched and close to your ear!  Come to think of it, while its in both ears, its definitely worse in my left one ...

November 23, 2010 at 10:59 AM ·

I don't have it, probally due to my short time playing, but I do protect my left ear by using a Heros ear plug for musician. That doesn't alter the sound, just make it lower. I feel weird if I plug both ear so just the left one - most suffering one I think.

November 23, 2010 at 11:39 AM ·

Thanks - thats something I really should look into... or should I say, something I should listen to...:)

November 23, 2010 at 06:28 PM ·

Another source of earplugs for violinists is Etymotic Research.  They make ear plugs that preserve the frequency response, but reduce the volume.  They have several offerings starting at around $20 (with shipping) and going way up for custom built and fitted plugs.  Check them out at www.etymotic.com

I have no interest in the company, but I use their product.  Anyone who plays more than 2 hours a day should use ear plugs while practicing. Becoming deaf in the left ear in your 60s is a bummer, and is avoidable for $20.

November 24, 2010 at 03:13 PM ·

The short answer to the original question : I think a small amount of hearing loss is very likely, and a hearing test would be a good idea.

I think most long-playing violinists will have some degree of hearing loss, esp in the left ear. Quite often it's not really noticeable, but a hearing test (pure tone audiogram) would tell a lot. I do agree with the person who recommended bespoke earplugs when practicing. Many doctors don't believe that the volume of a violin is enough to cause hearing loss (they think the volume needs to be that of a loud rock concert or industrial machine noise). They are of course wrong, in that it's the SPL (sound pressure level) that is significant, not the dB level when measured from a distance. The SPL of a violin being played is most certainly outside the safe zone, and I think this discussion bears that out. If you only go for a hearing test when you think something's wrong, chances are you've left it too late. Two hearing tests, spaced about 2 years apart will give a good indication of any high-frequency hearing loss. Once this loss drop below a certain threshold, hearing speech becomes difficult, as we all know.

Ringing in the ears - tinnitus - I have most of my information from the Hazell / Jasterboff book called "Tinnitus Retraining Therapy", which I believe to the the most accurate source of information on all aspects of hearing loss, tinnitus, and subsequent therapy for those who perceive tinnitus as a real problem. There's a general ignorance of tinnitus in the medical profession, even among audiologists, so it's important to understand it fully. Although normal hearing people can have tinnitus, it's more common with hearing loss. Two reasons - normal hearing masks the tinnitus to some degree (esp the "whining" high tone variety, so it can be bearable). Hearing loss in the high freqs has no masking power - so the tinnitus is perceived as being worse. Tinnitis is defined as "any electrical signal in the auditory pathways" - which of course includes normal electrical activity, making it hard to quantify the tinniutus level externally. This definition also covers excess electrical activity in the cochlea, the most likely cause being damaged OHC (outer hair cells).

It's generally thought that avoiding salt, caffeine, fat, alcohol is beneficial, but only because avoidance of these contribute to well-being. Some patients have reported a marked difference in tinnitus levels for caffeine and salt, where others have stated that it makes no difference.

The tinnitus re-training therapy concentrates on breaking the conditioned response which links the auditory system with the limbic system, thus causing fear, panic distress, etc. This technique is not new (it's been used since the 80s) but (in the UK at least) much of the medical profession is uneducated in it. It has a high success rate when applied correctly, but it does not work for everyone. There are various other methods in use (cognitive behaviour therapy, tone-matching using phase invertion, etc, but there do not appear to be any official figures indicating success rates.

Much more information than was originally asked for, but it won't do any harm :)

November 24, 2010 at 11:33 PM ·

 I will tell you this:  when my hearing was tested some years ago to get into the army, they found that I had hearing loss in my left ear at certain  high frequencies.  I had to take the test twice, and barely passed the second time.

November 26, 2010 at 04:00 PM ·

I have found the only correlation with my tinnitus is vitamins.  I believe it may be Vit D, though not 100% sure.  If I forget to take vitamins for a week the ringing gets a lot worse.  A couple of days after restarting vitamins it nearly goes away.  My doc scoffed at the idea, so maybe I'm wrong, but it is the only correlation I've found.

Long term exposure to moderately loud sounds can cause hearing loss, it isn't just exposure to brief very loud sounds such as a concert or artillery fire.  Though I wear ear muffs at work, the volume is still moderately loud and I have permanent hearing loss and tinnitus as a result.

November 26, 2010 at 10:14 PM ·

Steve, are you in essence, say that taking vitamin D reduces your tinnitus? That's interesting. How much of it do you normally take?

I have hearing loss too, clinically classed as "moderate" in the speech frequency range, and I have persistent, binaural high-tone "formless sound" tinnitus.

For the sake of a few coins, maybe for me, It's worth a try.

btw most doctors know less about tinnitus than well-read laymen.

 

 

November 26, 2010 at 10:28 PM ·

Jim, I agree that most docs seem clueless about tinnitus.  I read on the web (dangerous I know) that a Vit D deficiency can be related to tinnitus.  My regular doc scoffed and said I'd have rickets before hearing problems.  But I started taking a D supplement of 1000 iu and it seemed to help within a week.  After that I started taking a regular multi-vitamin almost daily, when I remember, and the extra D about as often.  The tinnitus truly seems related to taking vitamins or not.  Caffeine in higher doses seems to make it worse.  I recall reading that D is one of the vitamins that can be overdosed, so I wouldn't go crazy with taking lots of D.  As always, your mileage may vary.

November 27, 2010 at 10:46 AM ·

Thanks Steve, I'll check it out.

November 27, 2010 at 05:21 PM ·

Hi All - I've learned that this topic of hearing conservation, hearing loss, and tinnitus is exceedingly complex, and only recently has research been published that definitively shows how often we musicians are exposed to harmful levels of sound. 

E.g., we now know that as many as half of professional string players deal with sound-induced hearing loss. Music students too are routinely overdosed with sound in practice and rehearsal.

The good news is that there are plenty of proven strategies we can employ to protect our hearing, the use of earplugs being but one option.

If you'd like to learn more, I've summarized the main issues in an article on my blog titled "Hear today. Hear tomorrow." http://musiciansway.com/blog/?p=231. I've also posted numerous links to additional resources on the Wellness page at MusiciansWay.com:  www.musiciansway.com/wellness.shtml

Hope that's helpful. Gerald

March 29, 2017 at 09:27 PM · Yup! I have kundalini, which makes me hear things, but I play violin for hours each day. Wow, my ears really ring!

March 29, 2017 at 10:33 PM · I measured the sound level of my violin at shoulder-to-ear distance: 95-100 dB! Destruction of the cochlea's hair cells assured..

I use cotton balls or Etymotic plugs. No problem of cerumen as I take them out when not playing!

March 29, 2017 at 11:39 PM · This thread is in its 10th year -- no idea whether OP is still watching it.

I use foam earplugs, both left and right, for playing and practicing -- dB reduction about 33. I don't like the idea of protecting only the left ear, because the volume balance is off -- that's not the way most of us hear in real life. I still hear all I need to hear in my own playing but at a safe level. The sound I get now is more like what an audience gets -- I know because I've had the comparison. Can't fathom going without earplugs now.

March 30, 2017 at 02:20 AM · Jim, I've never thought about the problems of only plugging the left ear. Interesting. I personally plug my left ear with a plain old ear plug because my violin literally screams at me especially when I play loudly. I used to go without earplugs because I used fractionals that were never loud enough to be considered piercing under the ear. Now I use some pretty powerful violins so I can't go without earplugs or otherwise my violin is piercing loud under the ear.

March 30, 2017 at 10:41 PM · @Ella: Similar experience here. The 1/2- and 3/4-size instruments I first played on weren't loud enough to be piercing under the ear. Didn't move up to first 4/4-size fiddle till 14 y/o. It wasn't so loud, either. I started using Pirastro Gold strings at 15 y/o. They didn't seem too loud -- at least not on my first full-size instrument.

When I upgraded to a better instrument and then later added two others, there was more power. Then I went to composite-core A-D-G from the Thomastik line on two of these fiddles. The sound was noticeably more penetrating. That's when I added earplugs.

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