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Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

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Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby GDerksen » Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:12 am

When listening on low volume my ears get tired. I can't call it pain, it's more like 'overused', my ears need a break. The volume of my speakers is really low. I could have a telephone conversation in front of my speakers, and still be able to hear everything. It's really annoying because I'm really up for creating music.

Several articles on the internet suggest to invest in better speakers. I got Rokit 5 (KRK), active speakers. Some say the high frequencies might be to loud, others suggest a different setup or different technical solutions I don't really understand.

I've been deejaying for many years and got tinnitus (a constant high sound in my ears). Because of that I'm very careful with loud music, always wear earplugs. I don't have a problem with my tinnitus, accepted it, got used to it. But the discomfort on low volume is new to me.

I realise that 8 hours between nearfield speakers (even on low volume) makes your ears tired. But I get it already in one hour. So I suspect my audio setup to be wrong.

This is my setup: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/45647072/sites/tumblr/se...

Anny suggestions?
( I only have this problem in front of my nearfield monitors, not in the car, in front of the TV or when using headphones)

Thanks,
Gerhard
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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby Scramble » Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:25 am

I'd be going to the doctor immediately.
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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby Punkbjort » Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:22 pm

Gerhard,
A post on this forum about 6 or so months ago mentioned a cure for tinnitus was regularly eating ripe bananas. I was unfortunate to have served in a war where my ears were exposed to some very loud explosions and on top of that I played in a rock band where the lead guitarist believed there was only one volume setting on his Marshall amps, 11. Having had my doctor tell me there was nothing I could do I decided to try this banana remedy. After two weeks of one ripe banana a day my tinnitus improved dramatically. On a scale of one to ten I used to experience between five and seven, it is now down between zero to three. A bit of research show that bananas are rich in magnesium and potassium as well as being full of vitamin B. I now take vitamin B tablets once a day as well.

I was really sceptical about this beforehand but I can honestly say it worked for me, not cured but a whole lot better. Your milage may vary.
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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:44 pm

If you only have the problem with this setup it sounds like the setup might be the issue.

The speakers dont look well placed. The left one is stuck partially in a shelving unit and the right one is in the corner of the room. These placements may be exciting unpleasant resonances.

A desk in between you and the speakers tends to creat problems, often a honky bass sound.

Your nearfield speakers dont look that near to your listening position. The closer they are to your ears (within reason) the more directly you will hear them. That was the whole point of nearfields. Try to get them closer to you, but elevated from the desk, even though it may take up some desk space. Perhaps hang them from the ceiling.

Try using some good quality headphones to see if that temporarily solves the problem.

Also, how much background noise is there in that space? For example is there a noisy PC in the room? A noisy aircon? Some other noises close by?

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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby GDerksen » Thu Jul 11, 2013 1:34 pm

That's some really nice feedback! Thank you for the setup suggestion and banana idea. I will definitely try!
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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby Jack Ruston » Thu Jul 11, 2013 2:05 pm

It seems to me that if you're not having problems with any other setup, and you're working at very low level, it's more likely that you have some sort of nasty room mode or resonance that's irritating you, than that there's any sort of problem with you physically. I'm not a doctor, and you should always seek medical attention if you think there's a problem, but what I'd do is to take the speakers into another room entirely, and get stuff playing back through them. See if the same problem exists. Try moving them to a drastically different position. It's worth tracking down whether this is an issue with the room, the speakers, or the position.

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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby GDerksen » Thu Jul 11, 2013 5:36 pm

Good Idea Jack! It indeed can be that simple! Thanks!
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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby GDerksen » Fri Jul 12, 2013 9:15 am

After yesterday's post I found some more information. I think to know what causes the problem.

I'm not a pro, I just make music for fun. I wish I had the knowledge to use all plugin's wisely, but I guess I don't. One specific thing I'd like to know more about is the master-level and the use of mastering plugin's like Izotope.

As I create electronic dance music, I have reference tracks I'd like to match. In order to achieve the same loudness, punch, clarity and power, I noticed Izotope's mastering plugin to be a great tool for achieving this. But I guess I'm overdoing it. Listening to that sound all the time makes my ears very tired, even on a very very low volume!

Some people say to leave mastering behind. In order to get your track louder, just use a limiter. Electronic dance music is of course very much compressed, so taking that mastering plugin off from the master channel makes my tracks sound less powerful.

A spectrum analyzer also would work they say. Is it as simple as comparing the spectrum of my track to a reference track? And simply take those frequencies down?

Once more I like to mention that I have had no training or experience producing music. I just do that what sounds right to me. I really enjoy it, but now my ears won't let me continue.

I don't know if it helps, but I got 2 remixes online, created in the past month: http://dj.beatport.com/korfmaker

Thank you all for your time and thoughts!
Gerhard
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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:05 am

I'm going to eat more bananas for my hearing - very useful thread!


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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:25 am

GDerksen wrote:Listening to that sound all the time makes my ears very tired, even on a very very low volume!

yep... that's what hyper-compression does, and why it's such a bad idea. Sadly, that side of the industry demands everyone plays the same stupid and ultimately self-defeating game.

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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby GDerksen » Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:34 am

Thanks Hugh!

In order to continue my creative process - should I work on my track without mastering and just insert a limiter? Would a spectrum analyzer help me in identifying which frequencies cause the pain?
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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Jul 13, 2013 12:40 am

Thanks for the link to your sample tracks.

Electronic dance music can be pretty heavy on the bass. Ideally, upgrade to a better set of monitor speakers - and a room to match! - which can handle that deep bass with better fidelity. Otherwise you wont be hearing well what you are mixing.

Alternatively, even though they're not ideal, a good set of headphones can help when mixing the bass more accurately without going to the expense of better speakers and room treatment.

Wow, a 74 minute track. If it was me I'd be exhausted just after listening to a track that long. Maybe you are spending too long a spell on mixing. A simple break for 5 minutes every half hour can give you and your ears a break!

Re limiting, since there's a fair bit of dynamic variety in the track you might want to treat each loud section and each quieter section separately. Maybe you're already doing that. So go for some careful limiting on just the 5 minute quiet section, and then use a different setting for a louder section. Just placing a global limiter on the entire track will probably just mess up the sound of the loud sections.

Alternatively, try manually changing the gain of each musical section, without any automation.

Final dynamics can be tricky to work out in advance. It greatly depends on who is listening, on what gear and in what surroundings. What might sound fine in a quiet living room may get lost on a noisy dance floor.

Liked some of what I heard musically. Some great variety in the music, which of course would be recommended with a 74 minute track!

All the best

Tim
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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby GDerksen » Sat Jul 13, 2013 7:00 am

Thanks Tim for your long reply, that's really helpful! It's been 3 days since I worked on the track that caused pain, I slowly feel my ears returning to normal. I indeed need to take more breaks! Perhaps I'll leave the mastering for the very end of the process (how it's meant to be), so I can spend more hours listening and creating without pain. I will also spend some time analyzing and comparing the spectrum of several songs.

I've learned a lot in the past days, I get the feeling I'm getting more grip on the whole process.

Thanks everyone!
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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby van Sinn » Sun Jul 14, 2013 8:13 pm

I'm doubtful about the benefits from new speakers.
You're already playing a low volumes, so the bass energy isn't the problem.
Your setup is about as bad as it gets:
Improper speaker placement with one more or less free standing, the other placed in a shelf, and a total absence of room acoustics treatment.

Dance music also often has a lot of high frequency contents, often with processed cymbals.
Especially your right hand speaker is very close to the wall, and with no acoustic treatment against primary reflexions, you'll have a lot of bouncing sound right into your, erm.. right ear

You seriously need to search out info on proper studio setup and treatment, and SoS has a wealth of great stuff, both in articles over the years and on the forum.
Don't bother yourself with some techniques being way over what you need; read and find out what it does, so you can adapt it to your own needs.

As a minimum, you'll need sound absorbers behind your speakers to take reflexions form the rear wall, ditto to the sides against primary reflexions.
You should also install a cloud (absorber) above your listening position against those reflexions.

Many such thingies can be bought expensively from specialist companies; however, they can also be build DIY at quite different pice tags
Rigid construction rockwool, covered with either a thin layer of acoustic foam or thick wool, mounted about half an inch from the wall, can do wonders.

BTW, acupuncture can be quite effective against tinnitus.
I have training in several ways of alternative treatment, but the banana trick - thanks bro - is new to me; something I'll want to investigate.
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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby GDerksen » Mon Jul 15, 2013 4:07 pm

Thanks you Van for your reply, really helpful! The speaker placement is indeed terrible, I was almost ashamed to put the picture online. Anyway, I'll replace my bookshelf's and create a professional corner in that spot. I'll invest some money against reflection-materials.
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Re: Ear pain (fatigue) when listening on low volume

Postby GDerksen » Wed Jul 24, 2013 9:52 am

Here a small update, I improved my setup.
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/45647072/sites/tumblr/Setup_2.jpg

Just clicking the mouse or typing on the keyboard already sounds different now. The reflections are gone. Over time my ears also got a break, so I'm back creating music.
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