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Hearing anomaly #2481461 11/16/15 11:48 PM
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rXd Offline OP
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Reading the obituary of a former musician colleague, I saw that, like Gabriel Fauré, he began, in later life, to hear notes lower than they actually were in the treble, feeling the need to sharpen them and higher than they actually were in the bass, feeling the need to flatten them.

I heard no signs of this when I worked with him as a professional wind player but we were both very much younger in those days. I also know of a pianist who lost his sense of "perfect" pitch and began to have a similar hearing anomaly later in life. It is also fairly well known that older (and some younger) tuners tend to over stretch octaves presumably to attempt to compensate for this anomaly.

I had always thought (known?) that pitch perception was always comparative to reference pitches and that this couldn't happen, then I heard of those who saw straight lines as not straight. We have always been aware of optical illusions and as a musician and tuner, aware of aural illusions but on closer looking or closer listening these illusions can be reconciled. (the 1979 Douglas Hofstader book "Godel, Escher, Bach, helps explain this in normal perception

Does anybody else experience these anomalies or can shed more light on them?


Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


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Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2481540 11/17/15 07:30 AM
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Luckily for me I haven't experienced such anomalies myself, but I know of others who have. I don't know why these problems appear but it seems that the damage is not necessarily irreversible.

There are some cases recounted in Oliver Sacks's book Musicophilia. I remember a chapter about a composer who started hearing high notes out of tune and got into the habit of avoiding the higher range, until he made a conscious decision to retrain his brain by playing and listening to music in that range: he was able to successfully change the way he heard those notes.


Steinway A grand (1919), Richard Lipp grand (1913), Yamaha P2 upright (1983), Casio PX-150 digital (2013)
Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2481552 11/17/15 08:14 AM
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This topic caught my attention because I actually experienced a rather severe auditory trauma over a year ago. I was recharging my diesel farm tractor battery (bigger than a regular car battery) and it apparently shorted out internally when I went to crank the tractor, because the battery exploded when I turned the switch. And I'm not talking a small explosion, I'm talking a big explosion. Fortunately, I was not injured by flying debris and shards of plastic when the top of the battery blew off, nor was I drenched with battery acid, but the noise of the explosion was horrific. It was the loudest thing I'd ever heard.

Unfortunately, the noise trauma did indeed do some damage to my hearing. I went to the Dr. immediately and they said my ear drums looked normal, but the damage was neuro-sensorial (nerve damage). Nothing sounds exactly the same. And, I noticed that higher notes on the piano, like C7, sound a bit flat, though they are not flat.

Also, I now wear hearing aids when at work.

So, my life changed when that tractor battery exploded about 3 feet from my head.

There has been some improvement during the last year, but I still hear unnatural anomalies that were not there before the trauma. And, I also suffer from tinnitus (ringing in the ears) much worse than before.

My wife and sons tell me that my voice sounds the same when I play the piano and sing, but it doesn't sound the same to me.

Hearing loss can occur naturally as we age, or due to the noise/decibel levels we are exposed to daily. But I didn't see that battery explosion coming and it changed my life forever.

Moral of the story? Protect your hearing at all cost... it is a precious gift that cannot be regained once lost.

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2481557 11/17/15 08:22 AM
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My teacher had absolute pitch. He is old now and seems to have lost it all together.
Losing absolute pitch through aging doesn't seem unusually. It's quite like hearing loss. Health has a lot to do with it.

I used to do well with telling pitch, but I lost it after I had anemia in early forties. Apparently, the brain was starved of nourishment.

It actually is better after I lost it. I am less bothered by many "musicians".

Last edited by Just Steven; 11/17/15 08:43 AM.
Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: Just Steven] #2481612 11/17/15 11:03 AM
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My hearing varies with the pollen count.
When the pollen count is high I tune stringed instrument with a tuner on all 4 to 6 strings.
When the pollen count is low tune one string and the others from that.

With a piano I am more tolerant of tuning that is a bit off when the pollen count is high because I don't trust my hearing.


Kawai GX-2
Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2481618 11/17/15 11:21 AM
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A friend of mine has perfect pitch - developed when learning violin at the age of 3. She stopped playing violin for a couple of years due to illness, when she came back to it, she still had perfect pitch, but she identified every note one semi-time sharper than it was. She never gets it wrong, just out by a semi-tone. Goes to show the brain is a very sensitive organ - it's not set in stone and it needs to be looked after.

Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: Rickster] #2481633 11/17/15 12:07 PM
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Rickster,
I'm sorry to hear about your most unfortunate accident, and the hearing repercussions. But those deficiencies don't appear to come across in your videos - which I enjoy.
Actually your first sentence made me smile, as once a month I too experience a rather severe auditory trauma. When the mother-in-law comes to visit!
When she was last here she said, "When you're dead, I'll dance on your grave." I replied, "Good, I'm being buried at sea!"


Currently working on:-
C Major scale (r/h only - starting with the pinkie finger)......

Dear Noah,
We could have sworn you said the ark wasn't leaving till 5.
Yours sincerely,
The Unicorns

(Sent from my Sinclair ZX81)..........



------------------------------

Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2481646 11/17/15 12:35 PM
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I have had bad ears since birth (premy baby and my grandmother on my dad's side went deaf in her 30s) l was told by an audiologist my hearing aides get me to about 96 percent. It makes a huge difference with bright and treble sounds...l never knew that about Faure and l didn't know you could loose absolute pitch..
Rickster sorry about your accident!
It is great that the brain is able to adapt to so much!
Beth

Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2481704 11/17/15 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by rXd
It is also fairly well known that older (and some younger) tuners tend to over stretch octaves presumably to attempt to compensate for this anomaly.


Traditional tuners work by counting the beats between two frequencies, so this shouldn't affect their results. It might be a source of confusion as to which way to move a note, but once moved, the beats give the absolute answer.



-- J.S.

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Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2481837 11/18/15 12:12 AM
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Dave B Offline
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+1 to JohnSprung.... A tuner who over stretches is a tough tuner to Reckonwith.


Enjoy.


"Imagine it in all its primatic colorings, its counterpart in our souls - our souls that are great pianos whose strings, of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of adventure!" - William Carlos Williams
Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2481887 11/18/15 04:03 AM
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Rickster, I am sorry that you have had this trouble.

Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2481946 11/18/15 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by David-G
Rickster, I am sorry that you have had this trouble.

Thanks David, and Tweedpipe, for the consolation regarding my hearing injury.

In spite of the injury, which caused a great deal of depression early on, I still have a lot to be thankful for and life goes on. Life can take some strange twists and turns that we don't understand, but I've learned that things can always be worse; much worse.

I still enjoy my pianos and my music, though perhaps not as enthusiastically as before. Playing my pianos still helps to put a smile on my face and relieve some stress every time. smile

All the best,

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2481953 11/18/15 08:33 AM
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I could play accordion when I was 6. I had no lessons because my parents were very poor. I hear music, so I know which key to press because I spent a lot of time fumbling with the keyboard. Soon, I got the sound mapped out.

In my case, I still hear anything below A440 a bit higher than half step. Anything above that is much harder. It's like throwing darts. The problem with being able to tell pitch is that you hear what a lot of people don't hear. At one point I could discern 1/32 step difference. It bothered the hack out of me that many people played the violin off by 1/8 step above and below where they supposed to be. I got turned off listen to people play in general.

Violin strings are 5th interval apart. Above A400, the fifth interval still bothers me. They always are flatter than I would like to hear it.

Last edited by Just Steven; 11/18/15 08:35 AM.
Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2482302 11/19/15 03:49 AM
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The brain's neuroplasticity, i.e. its ability (and evidently, its need) to adapt to changes in the sensing organs is amazing, but can also be very disconcerting.

Twice now I've had sudden hearing loss in one ear (fortunately, both only temporary), and within hours, the brain had started to adapt, so that what hearing remained in that ear, sounded distorted, both in pitch and timbre. Both times, the ear developed a tinnitus note centered on the area of most severe loss. (This is over and above my normal 10 - 15 kHz hissing tinnitus).

The first was in the right ear, with the most acute loss at about G7 (somewhere above 3 kHz). Notes from C7 to F#7 sounded flat, G7 itself sounded distorted, and from G#7 to C8 sounded sharp. When I listened to octave 7 with both ears, I actually heard two notes at the same time. Not a good place to be. That took almost a week to normalize.

The second time was in the left ear, just last month, from about 1 to 1.5 kHz. The ear lost 40 dB overnight (scary!!!), and when hearing started to return, the left ear heard notes in that range at least a semitone sharper than the right. I used the binaural frequency generator linked here previously, to gradually "train" the left ear to the right. This worked remarkably well, except the next morning, when the left ear had recovered somewhat (I checked its "in tune with itself" using octaves etc.), the right ear was now hearing too flat in this range! My brain had actually adjusted its signal processing in both ears in an attempt to reconcile the signals.

All of which has shown me that pitch perception is not at all as static and reliable as I always used to think.

RXD, people, especially the elderly, who start to see straight lines as warped are not experiencing an optical illusion. They are suffering from macular degeneration. Parts of the retina are warping out of the normal focal plane. It's a physical degeneration of the sensing organ. And because it's a real optical distortion, it cannot be "reconciled by looking more closely".

Last edited by Mark R.; 11/19/15 03:53 AM. Reason: typo

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Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2482387 11/19/15 10:20 AM
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Quote
Moral of the story? Protect your hearing at all cost... it is a precious gift that cannot be regained once lost.


Indeed, Rickster. One good thing about learning piano, I can now identify the pitch of the ringing in my ears!


Gary
Essex EUP-111 at the mountains
W. Hoffmann T-122 at the beach
Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: Mark R.] #2482569 11/19/15 10:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Mark R.
The brain's neuroplasticity, i.e. its ability (and evidently, its need) to adapt to changes in the sensing organs is amazing, but can also be very disconcerting.

Twice now I've had sudden hearing loss in one ear (fortunately, both only temporary), and within hours, the brain had started to adapt, so that what hearing remained in that ear, sounded distorted, both in pitch and timbre. Both times, the ear developed a tinnitus note centered on the area of most severe loss. (This is over and above my normal 10 - 15 kHz hissing tinnitus).

The first was in the right ear, with the most acute loss at about G7 (somewhere above 3 kHz). Notes from C7 to F#7 sounded flat, G7 itself sounded distorted, and from G#7 to C8 sounded sharp. When I listened to octave 7 with both ears, I actually heard two notes at the same time. Not a good place to be. That took almost a week to normalize.

The second time was in the left ear, just last month, from about 1 to 1.5 kHz. The ear lost 40 dB overnight (scary!!!), and when hearing started to return, the left ear heard notes in that range at least a semitone sharper than the right. I used the binaural frequency generator linked here previously, to gradually "train" the left ear to the right. This worked remarkably well, except the next morning, when the left ear had recovered somewhat (I checked its "in tune with itself" using octaves etc.), the right ear was now hearing too flat in this range! My brain had actually adjusted its signal processing in both ears in an attempt to reconcile the signals.

All of which has shown me that pitch perception is not at all as static and reliable as I always used to think.

RXD, people, especially the elderly, who start to see straight lines as warped are not experiencing an optical illusion. They are suffering from macular degeneration. Parts of the retina are warping out of the normal focal plane. It's a physical degeneration of the sensing organ. And because it's a real optical distortion, it cannot be "reconciled by looking more closely".

Thanks, Mark. You clarified what I meant about visual degeneration and I understand that an optical illusion is different. In an optical illusion, there is unually something to "latch on to" in order to reconcile it in the mind. With macular degeneration there isn't.

Similarly, your auditory experience addresses my question. As a tuner, it is difficult for me to imagine a situation that I couldn't reconcile with beat rates. I now think differently

I note that you are interested in piano technology, so I hope it would not be insensitive of me to ask if you would have had anything to "latch on to" in order to make the comparisons of beat rates in order for you to tune a piano during your episodes of anomalous hearing? I realise that this may be difficult if not impossible to answer.

I thank you all for your answers so far, some of them quite unfortunate and upsetting. I think we will all have a greater understanding of hearing problems and not take so much for granted. I know I will.


Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2482601 11/20/15 01:57 AM
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After an ear operation, I ended up with a (relatively) common case of temporary "diplacusis" (each ear hearing pitches differently). The pitches would separate around middle C, with the ear that was worked on hearing higher pitches (about a half step) increasing as the pitch got higher. As a musician, it was rather disconcerting... imagine playing a single note and hearing a minor 2nd. Another interesting sensation... since the brain could no longer merge the higher sounds from both ears, the sense of where sounds were coming from changed... it sounded like someone was whispering in my ear, since those higher sounds were then localized to that ear. In any case, after a couple weeks, the brain retrained itself to integrate both ears, and all was better than before.

Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2483173 11/22/15 01:13 AM
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Thank you vancamp, a fascinating account. I'm glad everything returned to better than before. We learn so much from what we experience and hearing. Clear accounts of what others experience. Thanks to everybody who contributed.

I googled diplacusis and found a wealth of information on a wide variety of hearing anomalies. I'll get back to reading them.
Thanks again.


Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2483917 11/24/15 04:47 AM
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Originally Posted by rXd
I note that you are interested in piano technology, so I hope it would not be insensitive of me to ask if you would have had anything to "latch on to" in order to make the comparisons of beat rates in order for you to tune a piano during your episodes of anomalous hearing? I realise that this may be difficult if not impossible to answer.


Not insensitive at all.

If push came to shove and I absolutely had to tune, I would probably still be able to hear beats, albeit distorted or at an unexpected pitch (in the one ear). But I would be very uncertain of my tuning, since (admittedly) I don't always check every single interval with test notes and beats, especially when expanding the temperament. Often I tune octaves, octave-fifths and their compounds according to an approach of "cleanest possible envelope", having learnt to trust it. But this approach suffers a huge breakdown of trust during anomalous hearing periods.

Fortunately for me, I am in no way dependent on my tuning activities (other than enjoying the satisfaction and social interactions it provides me), so if time or health does not allow, I simply postpone. So, while I understand your question, I'm afraid I can hardly answer it, for the simple reason that during previous hearing anomalies, I simply dropped all tuning (and most playing) activities, as my hearing anomaly always goes hand in hand with hyperacusis in the affected ear. And that's the real bummer. While pitch anomalies can be disconcerting, hyperacusis can be, quite literally, debilitating.


Autodidact interested in piano technology.
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Re: Hearing anomaly [Re: rXd] #2484550 11/25/15 07:14 PM
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Thanks Mark. Your account really helps me understand some hearing problems much better.


Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.



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