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Posted By: gooddog Hearing damage from piano? - 12/29/08 09:18 PM
Does anyone have any knowledge about the long term effects of the piano on hearing? My tech suggested ear plugs would be a good idea to protect my hearing. I hate the idea but I cherish my hearing.
Posted By: BDB Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 12/29/08 09:25 PM
If a piano falls on your head it will probably damage your hearing.
Posted By: wdot Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 12/29/08 09:34 PM
I doubt anyone could develop hearing loss from playing the piano, unless it were a very large piano in a very small room. While I've heard lots of concerns about musicians' hearing, generally this involves rock musicians (who are asking for it) or orchestral players who sit directly in front of the brass or percussion sections.
Posted By: Horowitzian Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 12/29/08 09:44 PM
Quote
Originally posted by wdot:
I doubt anyone could develop hearing loss from playing the piano, unless it were a very large piano in a very small room. While I've heard lots of concerns about musicians' hearing, generally this involves rock musicians (who are asking for it) or orchestral players who sit directly in front of the brass or percussion sections.
Not necessarily; I've gotten temporary tinnitus from a very small but very bright grand in a large, acoustically live room. mad
Posted By: Erus Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 12/29/08 09:48 PM
Get an SPL meter, you'll get a better idea about how loud it is, and if you do or do not need to take precautions.

Normal playing in normal conditions shouldn't be a problem.
Posted By: Juishi Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 12/29/08 09:50 PM
Rather certainly it will have some effect on hearing, especially if you play many hours every day (4+). I don't believe that the hearing losses could be large but who would like to get any?
Earplugs don't probably sound very comfortable, but how much would it impact when you are playing, say, finger exercises or practicing some piece with just forte and slow tempo? Overall practicing won't suffer if you don't hear everything loudly, plugs won't completely diminish the sound anyway. They can be removed when you want to perform or play pieces effectively.
Posted By: sotto voce Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 12/29/08 10:50 PM
Quote
Originally posted by Juishi:
Rather certainly it will have some effect on hearing, especially if you play many hours every day (4+). I don't believe that the hearing losses could be large but who would like to get any?
I'm skeptical.

What would be the source of the effect on hearing other than loudness, which is entirely within the player's control? Why would one ever play at maximum loudness for long durations?

Is there any other potential reason for hearing problems? Something related to harmonics and overtones, or even something inaudible? Would it be harmful, for instance, to listen to a dog whistle all day long every day?

Steven
Posted By: Jazz+ Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 12/29/08 11:15 PM
I am around pianos several hours a day and after an hour my ears start to ring loudly. I have chronic tinnitus and pianos are loud enough to make it worse. I wear custom molded ear filters not ear plugs. My tuner wears ear plugs. My filters reduce the volume down 25 db and it still sounds clear enough. I actually prefer playing with them in, they help take the edge off many bright or harsh sounding pianos.
Posted By: Juishi Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 12/29/08 11:28 PM
Quote
Originally posted by sotto voce:
I'm skeptical.

What would be the source of the effect on hearing other than loudness, which is entirely within the player's control? Why would one ever play at maximum loudness for long durations?

Is there any other potential reason for hearing problems? Something related to harmonics and overtones, or even something inaudible? Would it be harmful, for instance, to listen to a dog whistle all day long every day?

Steven
Feel free to be anything you want, I'm not an ear-doctor :p
Rock musician also have the noise they make within their control, why would they suffer from loss of hearing? I don't know, maybe because they produce so loud sound? The sound level of piano is higher than, for instance, human voice while talking. I don't know exact desibels but I was never talking about severe damages....
"Why would one ever play at maximum loudness for long durations?"
good question and you took my example of practicing 4 hours/day to an extreme. nobody plays like that just banging the heck out of the piano, but on effective practising you will get constant sound to your ears which is not in any way comparable to dog's barking.
I can't really express all my arguments properly but there is no need to take my humble assumption too seriously.
Posted By: Horowitzian Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 12/29/08 11:50 PM
Huh? Old rockers from before the days of earplugs and personal in-ear monitors (which also attenuate onstage volume) are one of the deafest groups of people in the world. They turned it up as loud as it'll go with no protection.

Hearing damage that might result from playing a piano is pretty negligible compared to a a heavy-handed rock drummer, and bassist with a couple of big 8x10 cabs, the rhythm guitar, and the lead guitar.

Anyone who attends rock concerts regularly w/o earplugs is bound to have damage from the 120 dB+ wall of sound. Heck, even a typical country band can crank out as much as 110 dB+.
Posted By: davaofthekeys Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 12/29/08 11:52 PM
Sometimes when I play a grand piano in a small room, and play a lot of really loud pieces like Liszts wildejagd and Chopins Revolutionary etude, my ears actually do tend to get a little tired (to say nothing of my fingers!!) laugh

Recently I actually prefer practising those loud etudes on a digital, just to rest my ears a bit, saving the grand for the final performances.
Posted By: Copake Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 01/01/09 08:01 PM
I don't know whether playing the piano can cause hearing loss. I suppose it might if the instrument produces a lot of volume and is played in a very small space.

Like Jazz+ I have chronic tinnitus. It started about ten years ago. At the time I was practicing on a Yamaha keyboard and using headphones so that I could play when the rest of the family was asleep. I kept the volume low but I still wonder if that caused my tinnitus or if I would have developed it anyway. I no longer use headphones or earbuds for any purpose.

My brother is a percussionist. When he was young he played in rock bands and with touring groups. Now in his 50's he reports having hearing loss.

I have heard that many orchestra musicians suffer hearing loss. I have always felt sorry for the instrumentalists who have to sit in front of the brass section.
Posted By: james c Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 01/03/09 12:51 AM
I calculated years ago that it is easy to exceed the OSHA sound exposure guidelines playing the piano, which I did for years in small practice rooms with grands. The volume is dependent on your piano and room, of course.
Posted By: MarkH Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 01/03/09 01:30 AM
I was worried about this during undergrad, so I bought myself a portable decibel meter, set it on a stand at head level right next to me in a grand piano practice room (steinway B in an acoustically uninsulated drywalled room approximately 10'x16' with about a 12' ceiling), and played a bunch of the stuff I had been working on including the first part of Chopin's 1st Ballade that reaches ff, with all the octaves (around pg 5). I found that that section was consistently around 87dB. I just re-checked on the OSHA website and found that a workplace environment of 90db for 8 hours or more requires ear protection. So my specific situation was almost in the range of recommended hearing protection if I played all loud stuff for 8 hours a day.

Note though that this is a recommendation that comes from some governmental board who may have had various competing interests when they issued this statement. The fact that my ears were tired after such exposure I think says enough to suppose that some degree of hearing damage can accumulate over years. I miss those nice practice rooms, but I am pleased in my current situation that I can turn down the volume on my digital when I'm practicing loud sections. Other than that or getting ear plugs/filters (very interesting!), I'm afraid that some degree of hearing damage is inevitable for a serious pianist.
Posted By: chasingrainbows Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 01/07/09 10:01 PM
Quote
Originally posted by Jazz+:
I am around pianos several hours a day and after an hour my ears start to ring loudly. I have chronic tinnitus and pianos are loud enough to make it worse. I wear custom molded ear filters not ear plugs. My tuner wears ear plugs. My filters reduce the volume down 25 db and it still sounds clear enough. I actually prefer playing with them in, they help take the edge off many bright or harsh sounding pianos.
I have the same problem. When I played my 6'4" grand, I had to keep the lid closed and keep the intensity down, or risk insanely ringing ears for the next 24 hours. Even with a digital keyboard, certain high notes set off the ringing. Exposure to high volumes of music (for instance, walkmans, discman, etc.) damage hearing, so why wouldn't a grand piano if it were too loud? I have hearing loss, though I cannot say if its age-related, piano playing for 30 years or abuse of headphones that caused it. I do know it sets off some pretty horrible tinnitus. frown
Posted By: Wry Guy Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 02/28/20 07:25 AM
I just measured my piano's SPL after reading the posts above. From the player's position:

pianissimo: ~75 decibels

fortissimo: ~97 decibels

I never worried about it before, but I do have tinnitus and now I wonder if all my piano time might be contributing to it.
Posted By: scriabinfanatic Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 02/28/20 04:23 PM
You don’t have to buy a decimal meter piece of hardware…you can just get an inexpensive app on your smartphone for taking decibel readings. I bought one for 99 cents that works on both my iPhone and my Apple Watch. Using the app, practicing scales on my piano at a moderate volume is about 80 decibels, and it’s easy to get 90+ decibels by playing two-handed chords at high dynamic level. One of the pieces that I practice daily which has a rather continuous loud volume is Chopin etude in C-minor op. 25 no 12, and with that piece I get 85 dBA plus-or-minus five pretty much continuously.

The CDC/NIOSH guidelines listed here are lower than the OSHA one previously mentioned:

https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/chart-lookatnoise.html

…i.e. 85 dBA is the 8 hour limit, and 91 dBA has only a two-hour limit.
Posted By: navindra Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 02/28/20 05:54 PM
Originally Posted by scriabinfanatic
You don’t have to buy a decimal meter piece of hardware…you can just get an inexpensive app on your smartphone for taking decibel readings. I bought one for 99 cents that works on both my iPhone and my Apple Watch. Using the app, practicing scales on my piano at a moderate volume is about 80 decibels, and it’s easy to get 90+ decibels by playing two-handed chords at high dynamic level. One of the pieces that I practice daily which has a rather continuous loud volume is Chopin etude in C-minor op. 25 no 12, and with that piece I get 85 dBA plus-or-minus five pretty much continuously.

The CDC/NIOSH guidelines listed here are lower than the OSHA one previously mentioned:

https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/chart-lookatnoise.html

…i.e. 85 dBA is the 8 hour limit, and 91 dBA has only a two-hour limit.

Note that the watch has a free decibel meter included. Just run the Noise app, although I'm not sure if it matches the functionality of your app, it's still quite useful.
Posted By: scriabinfanatic Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 02/28/20 06:27 PM
Interesting...but my watch is Series 3. That says it's only for Series 4 and later.
Posted By: navindra Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 02/28/20 06:32 PM
Ah, gotcha! $0.99 is an excellent deal, nonetheless.
Posted By: johnstaf Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 02/28/20 11:31 PM
I have to be very careful as I have tinnitus and it gets much worse after noise. In a practice room (or anywhere I can make loud noise) I have to be very careful, as any piano (regardless of its size) can cause problems. I've been very lucky so far, as I've been able to keep it under control so far.
Posted By: gooddog Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 02/28/20 11:40 PM
I feel so refreshed! I originally posted this in 2008.
Posted By: Charles Cohen Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 02/29/20 04:23 AM
There's a related thread running in the "Piano Teachers" forum right now.

For anyone with trouble from tinnitus from loud sounds, I recommend these earplugs:

https://www.amazon.com/Etymotic-High-Fidelity-Earplugs-Standard-Packaging/dp/B00RM6Q9XW

They give reasonably-constant 20 dB reduction, across most audio frequencies. They fit me well (I got the "Standard" size), are comfortable, and don't cost much. They're better than my old Hearo "Musician's Earplugs".
Posted By: LarryK Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 02/29/20 07:42 AM
Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
There's a related thread running in the "Piano Teachers" forum right now.

For anyone with trouble from tinnitus from loud sounds, I recommend these earplugs:

https://www.amazon.com/Etymotic-High-Fidelity-Earplugs-Standard-Packaging/dp/B00RM6Q9XW

They give reasonably-constant 20 dB reduction, across most audio frequencies. They fit me well (I got the "Standard" size), are comfortable, and don't cost much. They're better than my old Hearo "Musician's Earplugs".



I have these earplugs and I wouldn’t go to an amplified concert without them. These days I don’t go to many amplified concerts. I could try them at the piano to see what they’re like. I’m a big fan of Etymotic and I love their ER-4SR earphones which I will not travel without.
Posted By: cmb13 Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 02/29/20 01:00 PM
I practice my four octave scales, chords and arpeggios on my upright with the practice pedal, partially so as not to annoy my family, but also to reduce the volume for my own ears. I practice them pp to ff, and on weekends do all major and minor keys, so why expose myself to that volume unnecessarily? If available, at least using such a practice pedal for menial practice routines and exercises makes sense to me.
Posted By: cmb13 Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 02/29/20 01:02 PM
Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
There's a related thread running in the "Piano Teachers" forum right now.

For anyone with trouble from tinnitus from loud sounds, I recommend these earplugs:

https://www.amazon.com/Etymotic-High-Fidelity-Earplugs-Standard-Packaging/dp/B00RM6Q9XW

They give reasonably-constant 20 dB reduction, across most audio frequencies. They fit me well (I got the "Standard" size), are comfortable, and don't cost much. They're better than my old Hearo "Musician's Earplugs".


Good idea! Small investment. I go to concerts on occasion and the volume is usually uncomfortable.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 02/29/20 06:40 PM
Coincidentally, I just noticed that we have two different thread on Pianist Corner and Piano Teachers forum with exactly the same title: "Hearing Loss from Piano" started by two different members.

gooddog, you might want to take a look at this thread on the Piano Teachers forum too.
Posted By: b84 Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 02/29/20 11:01 PM
The danger isn't the sustained resonance, but the transient of the attack. If it's an instrument with hardened hammers in a reflective space then you get hit with a lot of harmonic content. When I was young there was one practice room (small upright) which would make my ears ring after 20-30mins. If someone used that kind of setup daily there would surely be consequences as the years go by.

Good news is that a few rugs will totally take the edge off.
Posted By: David-G Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 03/01/20 01:19 PM
If you play an early square piano, there is no way that you would be at risk of hearing loss! (Or of disturbing the neighbours.)
Posted By: beeboss Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 03/01/20 01:45 PM
Research shows that regular sustained noise at 85db can cause hearing damage in susceptible people. Regular sustained nosie at 90db causes hearing damage for the majority of normal people. A grand piano played around f with the lid down is around 90db, with the lid up and ff around 100db. On headphones especially hearing damage is common as it is very difficult to know how loud we are listening. If you wait to have pain or discomfort chances are you have already casued some damage. Most people with a little bit of hearing damage don’t even realise it, as we get older our hearing deterioarates anyway so it can be impossible to know the cause in a particular case. If you value your hearing it is best to err on the side of caution.

You can get almost 100db even out of an upright piano …
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pGN4oE28J4
Posted By: johnstaf Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 03/01/20 06:58 PM
Originally Posted by David-G
If you play an early square piano, there is no way that you would be at risk of hearing loss! (Or of disturbing the neighbours.)



That's true. Perhaps I need a clavichord.
Posted By: malkin Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 03/01/20 07:09 PM
Noise exposure is not the only source of hearing loss. Many cases of hearing loss are age related.
Posted By: 3am_stargazing Re: Hearing damage from piano? - 03/05/20 04:21 PM
Oh if I can copy paste what I wrote on the piano teachers' forum .

Apparently, most professional classical musicians develop some kind of noise related hearing loss (in addition to the age-related hearing almost everyone will get), and classical musicians actually get more hearing loss than rock musicians, due to the longer practice hours in classical music.

However, for people without those kind of practice hours and amount of concerts attended, the risk will surely be a lot lower.

Still, definitely always bring some ear plugs with you (you could carry foam ear plugs around with you) and put them in if you believe the noise at a concert or rehearsal is too loud, or above about 90-100db, and similarly if you are practising on a loud piano in a small practice room.

Foam ear plugs usually attenuate the sound down by around 10-20db, likely bringing it to safe levels with them in.

That said, most people get age-related hearing loss, and that is partly genetic, and inevitable even if you sit in a quiet room your whole life, and had never become a musician.
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