Mixing And Compensating For Hearing Loss

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    Art Munson

    I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and wonder how others approach this.

    It’s probably fair to say that many of us have varying degrees of hearing loss, especially if you are of a certain age. As most of us are tasked with writing, recording and mixing ourselves I’m wondering how many of you deal with it. I’ve never been tested but I do know I that my right ear has more high end than my left and overall my high end is attenuated. There are probably other frequency holes as well. Interestingly enough I tend to not overcompensate on the high end. If anything I under-compensate, at least according to the spectrum analyzer I always use on my stereo buss.

    I did some research on-line and found this discussed on a few web sites:





    So, I use the spectrum analyzer, listen to commercial CDs, for reference, and many times ask Robin to lend her ears. What do you do?

    Art Munson



    This has been a concern for me as well. I am a Costco member, and am getting free audiology screenings there every year. They have helped me establish that I’m 80% left ear/65% right ear, and have a good sized hole starting around 11k. After years on the road, coupled with hearing issues since birth, I am taking better care to protect my ears than ever. I now make sure that I leave money in every budget for at least an hour with my fave engineer to check my roughs (and he has better toys than me, anyway!)

    Some great online tools:

    1. This is for tinnitus, but can be helpful finding your ‘spectrum gap’: http://www.audionotch.com/app/tune/

    2. The spectrum analyzer in Logic is great, but there’s also a free one that does nicely – and it is multi platform!:

    Happy hearing!

    – S

    56 Strat

    I myself am at the age [ and all those previous years as a full time live performer ] where my hearing and frequency judgement has gone down hill. I myself also get my wife to lend her ears, she has a good ear and understands when I ask her about certain aspects of the sound. Also, I got to know one of the fellows at a library I’m with very well over the years, he’s very understanding and helpful when I need advice on the issue. My hearing constantly changes throughout the day and evening and it’s causing judgement problems.


    A very good spectrum analyser is really important no matter how good or bad your hearing is.

    A good analyser will make upper freq that you may push very obvious, for most pop/rock tracks you can use a plus 3 db curve to flatten the analyser response to make it more readable.


    I use this one, my hearing is age related and from 12k down it dips, I thankfully took care of my ears when on the road, I know so many people with tinnitus.


    Thanks Denis and Scootman for the links. And your right with what you say Denis. I’ll be doing some long overdo upgrading over this summer, or I should say overhauling. Because of certain circumstances I had to kind of Mickey Mouse things this long past while.


    Art. Good links, I checked out a few and will read further tonight ! Thanks 🙂


    The spectrum analyzer in Logic is great

    Totally agree – I use it during mixing.

    So, I use the spectrum analyzer, listen to commercial CDs, for reference, and many times ask Robin to lend her ears. What do you do?

    Same here. I haven’t been asked to redo the Eq on finished tracks so that approach works for me too.

    And I use hearing protection (-30db reduction) whenever using the snow thrower, pressure washer — or any loud device that doesn’t make music.


    Art, I’m glad you brought this subject up because I’ve thought about it as well. I’ve had some hearing loss since childhood which has been noted in adulthood hearing tests too. What perplexes me is mixing, because it seems logical that one would overcompensate for the frequency loss. Somehow it just feels like when I’m mixing, I’m “tuned in” and hear it all including the little stuff.

    I too use references and the analyzers only to check myself after making any moves, but I find I never have to back off. I also ask my husband if anything is jumping out or too harsh (says no), and then run the finished mix by a mixing engineer friend who also has great hearing. According to him, these mixes are fine. I don’t understand why. The doctor says it can’t be. I can only think that somehow total focus takes over when I mix. It’s baffling to me. From when I was a kid, I always played by ear which really was from my head or soul, so I wonder if it’s something like that.


    Great links. In post #3 below, the part about the brain is where my thinking was headed with my previous post.


    He might be on to something. I feel we likely are mixing in a DAW, having tracked and soloed every sound or MIDI instrument individually, so we get to ‘know’ each sound in isolation. So if the brain is making note of how this sounds [which is where I was going with the playing by ear example], then we’re making a ‘memory’ of that sound as we go further into the mix.

    The closer we are to a sound (increasing the volume, basically) the more our ears compensate and hear it. No different than the dips in a monitor’s frequency response chart where the frequency is there but not as loud. Plus, we sit close to the nearfields. So is it feasible that this is why we’re doing OK in mixing when technically the hearing chart says otherwise?

    I usually have to turn up the volume on the TV to hear speech because I don’t sit that near to it and can’t hear it well otherwise, as opposed to the nearfields where it seems to me like I am hearing alright. So to me, it seems we are ‘tuned in’ and get absorbed in the mix which is kind of like being in our own little world at the time. Since we know the sounds that are supposed to be in there and what they sound like, perhaps the brain does the rest. I don’t know scientifically if that’s so, or just crazy talk…but that’s my experience, anyway. 😉


    Great topic, Art.

    I will second Denis on the Visualizer. I have used that for many years now. Strangely one of my most valuable plugins. And I will second Art on the references, as I am big on that.

    Years of gigging has definitely affected my hearing, and it is likely that I will lose the rest from genetics at some point. Until then, I mix…..


    Great thread!! I kind of chuckled when I saw this post… but I’m in the same boat. My wife often listens to what I compose and says…”turn down the bells!” or “that piano note is too harsh!” Anything above 2k I have a hard time hearing in the full mix, even with headphones. I guess I need to learn how to use a spectrum analyzer. Any good YouTube videos out there to help?


    Wow! we should be called the hearing loss club lol!

    I am of it too after a loud gig in my early thirties. Ear Trauma, severe tinnitus. I even had to stop music for a couple of years. What saved me is my acoustic guitar: it is a sound that would put the ringing at peace, Music saved me 🙂

    Now, years later, I’m 100% habituated, thus fine, but have to compensate and always stay conscious that my hearing is different from that of listeners’!

    Music saved me, and A/B comparison and spectrum analyzers save my musical life!

    Oh and Daveydad: A spectrum analyzer is quite a passive device. You just insert the plug in your mixer strip, and it should be quite straight forward to get the info you need.


    I am of it too after a loud gig in my early thirties. Ear Trauma, severe tinnitus. I even had to stop music for a couple of years.

    I’ve been saying for a long time that hearing loss was going to be a problem for younger and younger people, because of the levels at which they listen to music, both with speakers and headphones / earbuds.

    Every time, someone drives by with the subwoofers in their car cranked I think, “That guys’ going to be deaf by the time he’s 30.”

    The cilia lining our ears gets damaged every time we’re exposed to loud noise. We recover, to some degree, but the effect is cumulative over time.

    It’s a huge problem for aging rockers, like Pete Townsend.

    Michael Nickolas

    When I’m mixing and tempted to turn it up loud to hear how it’s sounding, I turn it way down instead. Try it! Everything is going to sound better loud, so try mixing for a while at a very soft volume instead. Can you still hear all your sounds at a very low volume? Instruments that disappear at the low volume may need to come up in the mix. Instruments that are too loud are easily noticeable.

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