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Violin playing hearing loss

Peter K-G

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When you use ear plugs, even if you use the ones especially designed for musicians, you lose some ability to play with more nuance and really control the instrument to the fullest of your capacity, but they do protect your hearing and will limit the risk. 

When you don't use ear plugs, you will certainly have some degree of hearing loss that might be minimal or really bad depending on genetic factors + your regular lifestyle (if you crank your headphones and go to rock concerts every week, violin is only going to add on top of that) but you will feel a bit more connected to the instrument and also to others if you play in any type of music group.
Some sections of the orquestra always use some sort of ear plugs or cover their ears at the right time.

Now what you value more is only up to you to decide but some things to keep in mind:

  1. Our bodies are wearing every day, the more you do, the more they wear. We are pretty good at regenerating and healing, but we cannot do it with hair cells in the inner ear. At some point some therapy might help with this, but I wouldn't count on this to make the decision.
  2. Anecdotal evidence is just that. The odd musician that is 80 and tells you that never used ear plugs and can hear just fine is no different from the person that smoked for 60 years and didn't get cancer. I would also like to see an audiogram of that 80 year old.

I use ear plugs as much as I can, but I just play for hobby. I also try to think that life is too short and I prefer to have a little bit worse left ear but having really nice hours with the violin than just taking care of my ear aggresively, but that's a personal decision.

Pretty confident that a big percentage of soloists are half deaf but can't mention it, since a half-deaf sounds like you cannot play in tune...

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At age 80, having started violin at 10, my left ear is much worse than my right ear.  My right ear is very good.  I can hear high pitched electronic signals, but I cannot locate them because my left ear cannot hear them.  If it were the trombones (or more likely, the piccolo) the hearing loss would be the same for both ears. A quick test with a sound level meter showed me that 90+ DB sound levels are often present at the left ear, but not the right.  The e string is the problem. NEVER PLAY FIRST VIOLIN AT THE END OF SHOSTAKOVITCH #5 !

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I have started using an ear plug in my left ear. The problem is that in an ensemble I feel that I should be hearing more from my left ear. The good thing other than perhaps preserving my hearing is hearing less direct sound. Keep in mind that according to the inverse square law, it can be shown that for each doubling of distance from a point source, the sound pressure level decreases by approximately 6 dB.

I would add to the above comments to avoid sitting next to a piccolo. It is like having a knitting needle stuck in your ear drum.

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Thanks all!

This is obviously a common and well known problem. Hadn't thought about it before I started to observ left ear fatigue.

I have been practicing more lately. Use to joke with a freind that it's not that we don't have talent, plenty of that, we just started playing too late.

It is impossible to learn how to play the violin at this age.

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They have businesses that will make custom earplugs designed for musicians.

If you have an ENT they may recommend a place if they don’t do them.

They are designed to lower volume but to do so evenly so you lose less nuance.

Custom is important because it will fit your ear canal and ear better and work how it supposed to. As well as not being uncomfortable to wear for hours.

Contact professionals who know more than us internet people :)

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I use an earplug but not all the time. When I'm playing with people it is sometimes a bother. You can't fully hear the detail in your sound. Likewise, it is harder to hear others if you have one ear blocked.

Luckily for violin, a very small amount of attenuation is good enough to prevent hearing damage. Even cottonballs work.

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