Earplug vs mute
hi guys, i'm finding it increasingly difficult to practice for more than an hour a day due to ear fatigue with my left ear ringing and impaired. i thought at first it was just my ears need to get used to it. but after an decibel app reporting well above 90db with max of 97db(yes i know an app is not the most accurate thing but it gives me a general idea)
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i originally wanted to switch to quieter strings, but was told by another member here not to castrate the violin and buy earplugs. however i'm not too fund of using earplugs, and was wondering if a mute can do the same job without castrating the sound. i used big rubber and metal ones that sits on the bridge, and these completely killed the sound.
i believe my question would be, what other recommended mutes that can tone it down 10-20db without castrating the sound. or is a musician earplug the best compromise. thanks in advance for any advice i can get.
A musician's earplug would be a better choice for your aural health.
Earplugs for sure! Mutes change the overtone distribution of the instrument so you become like a singer whose voice has been destroyed.
Thanks for that link Andrew :)
I always play with an earplug in my left ear. I use an Alpine musician earplug with the strongest filter.
I absolutely have this problem too. My unmuted violins, in combination with my unprotected ears, are simply too loud for my hearing. The sound distorts. So I either use musician's earplugs (D'Addario Pacato - inexpensive and effective), or mutes on my violins, depending on my circumstances and/or mood.
thank you guys for the advice and i'm glad i'm not alone in this, i previously consulted with my teacher and my luthier, and both them of claim they have never heard of this issue. so for the longest time i thought i was just being silly. i have earplugs but they are basically silicon foams that blocks everything, so i guess i'll just have to look into musician's earplug, any brand recommendations?
I have just measured the sound pressure of my violin at left ear. It’s in the realm of 96-99 dB continuous with peaks at 102-103 dB.
Those foam earplugs can work, but the musician earplugs are worth in my opinion, both in sound quality and in the long run (since they’re washable and reusable).
I use the Vater brand with the larger filter (plug?) - they seem to be similar to the Alpine brand. I have used these for years and really love them.
There is another problem with "overdriving" one's hearing; the overpressure in the ear can result in perception of higher pitch than the actual pitch. The result of this can be a a sense of discord since the left and right ears no longer sound the same to us. The common result of this is playing flat since we tend to correct the pitch heard loudest - in this case the overdriven one heard by the left ear.
@tony, what do you mean by linear, as in frequencies? do you have the alpine earplugs? how do they fit.i don't have a 3rd hand so these db recordings where from my desk 2 feet away from me. i'm pretty sure it would be even higher db if someone held the phone next to my ear.
Etymotic has good, flat-frequency musicians earplugs for about $17 USD on amazon. I use those, or my Wiessmeyer Prisma 3D mute, for a lot of practicing. My violin is simply too loud, and overdriven is exactly how I’d describe it in forte passages.
Thanks Andrew - now I have a rational explanation for why I love listening to violin but infinitely prefer plaguing viola...
I have real soundmeter. With my daughter holding it 3 inches from my ear, my viola went over 100dB, in theory for many hours a day!
Tony, glad that you check your hearing once in a while and that things are looking good still. I sometimes wonder if no apparent damage in the short term can still come and bite you later on when you get older though, i.e. end up with premature hearing loss.
Musician's earplugs work quite well, but be aware of a couple of things: each ear will set you back $125 or more, and due to the long profile that fits way back into the ear, they can push any wax buildup back where you have to visit an ENT to get it out.
I like to use occasionally a wax-infused earplug (as described by Andrew Victor in one of the early posts), but only in the left ear. I find that if I do this, what I now hear from my non-plugged right ear is closer to what a listener would be hearing - and is therefore instructive.
Trevor, I used the wax-infused earplug in my left ear for all my playing for about 15 years starting 30 - 35 years ago. Then I "graduated" to a non-prescription hearing enhancer only in my right ear when playing violin- it provided about a 10DB boost at 1KHz (and in my left ear for conversations because my left ear was a little better. And I finally graduated to "full-digital" hearing aids in both ears about 4 years ago - when I was 80.
What Scott writes about earwax is very true. Some people produce more earwax, others less, this is natural variability. If you are one of those types who produce more earwax, and you routinely practice with musician's earplugs (which is highly recommended anyway) then indeed each time you put them in you will shove a bit of earwax down the ear, and after a year or so you will have a plug in your ear. However, this is an absolutely routine thing to remove, any nurse can do this. When you feel you have a plug buildup you go to the pharmacy and ask for oil eardrops, apply these twice a day for a few days. Then your plugs have softened, then visit the nurse. They use a syringe to pump warm water in your ear and by the water pressure the plug comes loose. It is a yearly part of my life :-)
Unless you're using a mute for late night practicing to avoid disturbing those around you (or the passage calls for it), you really should not be practicing with a mute. It doesn't just make the instrument quieter - it literally deadens the resonance and changes your instrument's response. When I put a practice mute on my violin, it becomes less sensitive to my bowing technique and I can get away with certain types of sloppiness I couldn't normally. If you can't handle the loudness of the violin, the suggestions involving earplugs seem good. Just please, for your own sake, don't make a habit of practicing with a mute. It will make you weaker as a player.
Kyle - that's the one.
I am using the Alpine classics and happy with them.
I have custom earplugs from Westone. The process can be down in line. There are several "filters" than can be used. I have a 9db one for use in normal playing and with an orchestra (to tone down the trumpets). Not cheap at ~170, but well worth it. Flat frequency response, and 9db is perfect. Reduces audio levels enough to avoid ear ringing for me.
Here are some recommendations that are cheap to play around with. I often use one in my left ear.