I have severe hearing loss, and wear hearing aids in both ears. I've learned to cope with this for a number of years now.
Now something else has gone wrong - I am mis-hearing pitches, usually hearing them sharper than they are, and more often in the higher frequencies. For example, the 1st harmonic on the E string (E6) sounds sharp, but as it's a harmonic I know the pitch is correct.
I am hearing the notes clearly enough, but it's the perceived pitch that is faulty.
I do what I can to play in tune (reference notes against open strings, play double stops etc) and the feedback from other normal-hearing musicians is quite good. I sound pretty much in tune, but it's a struggle.
So, my question - is pitch mis-recognition just another symptom of severe hearing loss?
PS This problem is still present when I play without hearing aids, so that rules out distortion of pitch because of the amplification boost they give.
I'm no expert but I think it might be a symptom of your hearing loss. I had a student once who wore hearing aids, and he struggled with intonation in the upper register. It sounds as if you're already doing everything I suggested to him to try.
Did you have perfect pitch before? It is a documented phenomenon, that for some people, around mid-life, and sometimes a bit later, their entire pitch mapping can shift up, sometimes as much as a minor third! I sure am hoping that never happens to me.
From what you say it seems you judge the harmonic to be sharp relative to the open string so the distortion affects the higher frequencies predominantly. If that's the case referencing high pitches against a lower open string might be misleading. Does the problem affect both ears to the same degree? Very occasionally a shift in pitch mapping affecting both ears may reflect a central auditory processing disturbance, such as can be caused by certain medications.
@Lieschen - I didn't literally have perfect pitch before, but relative pitch was very acute, and I could hear microtonal differences quite easily.
Violinists often have a problem with deafness in their left ears as a result of noise exposure, a good reason not to use a shoulder rest. In any case, whether you play the violin or not, as you age your hearing is often not as sharp as it used to be. So much for the “big boys” - now about you. You sound fine to me on the videos you have posted. Just keep doing whatever it is you are doing and have your playing checked by others just to make sure. But that’s why people go to lessons anyway, isn’t it? To make sure they’re doing things right. I know this must be really frustrating for you but anyone listening to your recordings would never realize the extent of your problem. So keep up the good work!
I suspect this kind of problem isn't uncommon but is much under-reported. Most non-musicians simply wouldn't notice it, or would avoid listening to the kind of music that showed it up. Even amongst those who are aware that something isn't quite right, most wouldn't be able to articulate it like you can. My guess is that it's an age-related degeneration of the cochlear hair cells and unfortunately, like so many age-related conditions, there isn't a great deal that can be done about it.
I am sure that most audiologists aren't trained to deal with special populations, such as musicians, and I would guess that many don't have too much interest in reading the literature that educates them on things outside of the standard realm, unless they were perhaps dealing with some sort of non-standard issue that severely impacts functioning for the average person with no special skills.
Contact Marshall Chasin:
Everyone - thanks for all your responses!
I don't think it's a pitch problem (which is why the audiologist is stumped). I think it has to do with harmonic content, which is what guides our sense of intonation more than just pitch itself. When we evaluate a tone on a violin, we are listening to all of the partials, not just the fundamental. When tuning an E, for example, we listen for degree of openness. For E-flat and other non-open string pitches, we listen for a very specific degree of "not openness." For some degree of brightness or darkness to the timbre that we hone over years or decades of listening and correcting. At this point in my career, I can almost always tell (unless the violin is really bad) if a note picked out of context is in tune. I imagine most experienced teachers can. What I'm listening for is timbre, not relative pitch. It's instinctual and not deliberate.
Scott, that's interesting, however I still have the same problem without the hearing aids (I did mention that in my OP.)
Scott, hearing aids do not process most of the partials. They are limited to speech recognition. Hearing aid producers seem not to care about music lovers with hearing loss - musicians or audiophiles.
"Scott, hearing aids do not process most of the partials. They are limited to speech recognition. "
Scott, your last post but one may well explain a pitch problem a former leader of my chamber orchestra said he had. Apparently, when he used a mute (a standard Tourte) he claimed the violin tuning went very slightly flat. This puzzled me because no-one else could hear it, or experienced it on their own instruments, and I couldn't think of a violin hardware explanation for it. It now seems that the muting of the upper partials may have tricked his brain into "hearing" a slight fall in pitch that objectively didn't exist.
Someone should invent and sell music friendly hearing aids. It would reach a wide audience and make a killing.
I just found this. Don't know how good people think these are.
Thanks for the link!
yes, exactly. My FiiO X5 is quite bulky for a digital player - no way to pack that hardware in a few square millimetres!
I once used one of those super-high-pitched battery-operated mosquito repellers playing at an outdoor concert in the south in the summer. Another violinist got all pissy about it, claiming it messed with her pitch.
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