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Dealing with Ear Fatigue
Old 18th January 2007
  #1
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Dealing with Ear Fatigue

Usually after I've been mixing for a couple hours, even with some breaks, it seems like I can't trust my ears for much longer. Once I've put my effort and energy into a song, it seems like I get "tunnel" ears and I just don't seem to be able to hear clearly anymore, sometimes for the rest of the day. And some days, depending on how well I slept and whatever else happned that day, I don't seem to be able to hear well at all... When I bring the mixes up the next morning sometimes I wonder if it's best to start halfway over, because it's not really what i was going for.

I ask this question in the hip-hop forum because due to the 'aggressive' nature of this style of music, it seems to happen more easily. Even though I try to mix at lower volumes (around 83 dB SPL, and lower for balancing), the compressed, relentless, lofi nature of the music doesn't give your eardrums much of a rest.

So my question to those of you who mix for a living or mix consistently/daily, how do you deal with ear fatigue? And how do you cope with those "off" days or the times when you've been mixing for some hours, taking breaks, and your ears are still 'shot'? I'm guessing it gets easier with time and experience, but any advice you can give would be appreciated.

Thanks!
Old 18th January 2007
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by khameln View Post
So my question to those of you who mix for a living or mix consistently/daily, how do you deal with ear fatigue? Thanks!
Buy better monitors....

Regards,
Bruce
Old 18th January 2007
  #3
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Tibbon's Avatar
Yea, one HUGE thing about better monitors (that is really hard to tell in Guitar Center, if not impossible) is that they hopefully will be less fatiguing to the ears.

Turn it down, take breaks, stay hydrated, switch up songs if possible, take a break and listen to some other music. Hopefully something in that will help.
Old 18th January 2007
  #4
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get some ns 10's

and turn the music down b4 u go blind!!!
Old 18th January 2007
  #5
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Mix at lower volume, switch monitors (if possible), and take breaks. Don't get blasted for more than an hour or so without at least standing up to walk around.

Better monitors also help. When I ugraded from M-audio BX-8s to KRK 7000Bs, I noticed much less ear fatigue.
Old 18th January 2007
  #6
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EspionageWHW's Avatar
 

I used to get some ear fatigue semi-often... then I realized I was blasting my ears away because the volume was too loud. I would start out at a decent volume but then I would be incrementally turning it up and not realizing it.

Also too much EQ boosting on your lows and/or highs will have a fatiguing effect. I always shoot for subtractive EQ before additive EQ.

And obviously well balanced monitors are essential... I am very happy with my HR824s
Old 18th January 2007
  #7
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When you re tired but HAVE to finish it off there are 2 basic rules:

1: You hear less hi-freq so you tend to mix too bright.
2:You dont want to feel the bass freq so you risk mixing to thin..

Turn the volume down, get some fresh air...



www.nickoosterhuis.com

"All you can do is ruin things to varying degrees " originally posted by dbbubba
Old 18th January 2007
  #8
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Ya, I don't know man. I have huge problems with fatigue and I don't even listen loud.

Few things:

1) Monitors probably do it. I'm on Behringer Truth 2031A's which aren't supposed to be the best. Wish I had the cash to upgrade, but what can you do?

2) Switching back and forth to headphones helps (different sound)?

3) Acoustic treatment helps. If you have a few absorptive panels (http://www.readyacoustics.com) behind you vs. an empty boomy room or reflective drywall, you'll hear better and the mix comes easier.

4) Breaks? It sucks man. When I'm doing music I want to do 14 hours a day, but 8 hours seems to be the max possible for me and even then it gets ugly.
Old 18th January 2007
  #9
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limiting

i find a big difference between mixing and mastering stuff is than when mixing there are loads of transient peaks so the sound tends to break me down more. Try sticking a limiter on the master when you are tracking and if you mix in the box i like to mix with a waves ultramax on the master to take off the peaks.

turning it down can be really hard to do when you get going.

K
Old 19th January 2007
  #10
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t.dizzle's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike dean View Post
get some ns 10's....and turn the music down b4 u go blind!!!
This thread shoulda ended here.

Man if hip hop is giving you fatigue like that, stay far away from rock and metal.
Old 19th January 2007
  #11
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Appreciate all of the advice. Like audiovisceral said, I don't mix too loud, because it's not really accurate monitoring that way anyway. The reason I posted here is because it does seem to happen more easily then when mixing rock/pop. As Mcleod said, rock has sustained volume, but Hip-Hop has persistently repeated transients and kind of a 'coarse' sound to it by nature of the style.

Do NS10's qualify as a first choice for "better monitors"? Great for what they do, but are they really less fatiguing? To me they have a super-midrangy quality to them that's not that pleasant, but then that's why their great for making you go the extra mile to get the mixes right.

Anyway, it's cool to see everybody's take on the matter.
Old 19th January 2007
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by t.dizzle View Post
This thread shoulda ended here.

Man if hip hop is giving you fatigue like that, stay far away from rock and metal.

LOL, thats true, I get tired faster with rock than with hip-hop.

Anyway, when you say you don't mix loud, do you know how much spl is it?. Some people would not believe how loud they are mixing until they see the number.

Loud is such a personal thing sometimes... Loud for me is 100db, but I know people thats theirs "rigth" mixing volumne and go even higher when they want to be loud. There is nothing worng (if the mix comes out rigth).

As stated before monitoring is a key element here, not only because it sound better to your ears, but because you can hear what worng and fix it faster, meaning less time missing less ear fatigue.

Cheers
Old 19th January 2007
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adrianex View Post
Anyway, when you say you don't mix loud, do you know how much spl is it?. Some people would not believe how loud they are mixing until they see the number.
About 83 dB SPL is my "target" mix level... For setting/checking balance/levels, it's lower, because I find that if the relative levels are correct at a lower volume it translates better. I may push it louder for brief periods just to hear how things sound, but I'm def. not mixing at 100 dB SPL

I'm going to follow up on the monitor thing though, becuase it makes sense that if you monitors are making you "work" more to hear everything clearly, you'd fatigue more quickly.
Old 19th January 2007
  #14
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cool, Yeah I think your mix levels are rigth (pretty much same as mine). Give it a try with different monitors.

Regarding the NS-10, they were never the monitors for me. I couldn't say they suck, because so many great albums have been mix trhu them, but they werent for me.

My best advice is to find a dealer close to you that will let you try different monitors.

Good luck and cheers
Old 19th January 2007
  #15
Gear Addict
 

hi,

get your acoustics and monitoring right. I`d had experineces like that in some rooms too, there was a big scoop in the mids around 1-2.5khz and also in the 8-9khz area. those are very fatigueing if they are too prominent. maybe you record some pink noise at 83dbspl ( your mix volume) and analyse that pink noise, if you have to much mids/highs in your room. than maybe you can cut them down with an external graphic eq, its just a little helper, but keeps you from getting fatigued.

bye

Last edited by chester; 19th January 2007 at 04:32 AM.. Reason: typo
Old 20th January 2007
  #16
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deuc647's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by khameln View Post
About 83 dB SPL is my "target" mix level... For setting/checking balance/levels, it's lower, because I find that if the relative levels are correct at a lower volume it translates better. I may push it louder for brief periods just to hear how things sound, but I'm def. not mixing at 100 dB SPL

I'm going to follow up on the monitor thing though, becuase it makes sense that if you monitors are making you "work" more to hear everything clearly, you'd fatigue more quickly.
This is the best advice someone can give, i didnt believe it till i tried it and it will yield better results
Old 20th January 2007
  #17
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Alex Niedt's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by adrianex View Post
LOL, thats true, I get tired faster with rock than with hip-hop.

Anyway, when you say you don't mix loud, do you know how much spl is it?. Some people would not believe how loud they are mixing until they see the number.

Loud is such a personal thing sometimes... Loud for me is 100db, but I know people thats theirs "rigth" mixing volumne and go even higher when they want to be loud. There is nothing worng (if the mix comes out rigth).

As stated before monitoring is a key element here, not only because it sound better to your ears, but because you can hear what worng and fix it faster, meaning less time missing less ear fatigue.

Cheers
100 dB will f*ck your ears up after extended periods of listening. I hope people don't read this post and think 100 dB is a good general mixing level. Like some other people have said, around 82-83 dB is usually recommended, though a lot of people listen lower, as that hurts their ears after a while.
Old 20th January 2007
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Niedt View Post
100 dB will f*ck your ears up after extended periods of listening. I hope people don't read this post and think 100 dB is a good general mixing level. Like some other people have said, around 82-83 dB is usually recommended, though a lot of people listen lower, as that hurts their ears after a while.
the time to hear with out faitgueing and risking hearingloss at 100db is very short!!!

80-85db are in the industry used for an time of 8 hours, without hearing loss, everything what is louder than that shorten the time drastically of hearingtime and accompanying hearingloss!

i dont know the excact time for 100db,but i guess its below 20minutes!

so, secure your ears, lower volumes...get a dB-meter and only mix and hear around 80db for not longer than 8 hours a day. you have to protect your ears if you want them to do make professional works for decades.
Old 20th January 2007
  #19
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You guys should look up "Fletcher-Munson" and learn about that. Your mixes will thank you.
Old 20th January 2007
  #20
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adrianex's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Niedt View Post
100 dB will f*ck your ears up after extended periods of listening. I hope people don't read this post and think 100 dB is a good general mixing level. Like some other people have said, around 82-83 dB is usually recommended, though a lot of people listen lower, as that hurts their ears after a while.
I hope you didn't understand that I mix at that level (as I explained later) I said that 100dB were LOUD to me, not that I mix at that level. But I do know of people that would listen and mix not 8 hr, but for a fair ammount of time.
Old 20th January 2007
  #21
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Any of you who have followed my posts know the risks of over doing it.

It's hard to get that feeling of being immersed in the song without turning it up, but
that's what causes the most damage.

Like the others have said, train your brain to hear everything at lower volumes and your mixes will actually improve.

It's critical to limit the use of headphones as much as possible.

If you have interns or partners,
let them do some of the basics for you to help limit your exposure.

Most important of all,

If your ears ring for more than a day or two, it's a warning sign and you better pay attention.

Other things to keep in mind.

Limit exposure to yard equipment and power tools.
If you have any signs of an upper respiratory infection go to the doctor
without delay.
Dental problems can also lead to auditory nerve damage.
NEVER use controlled substance pain killers if you can possible stand it.
Percocet, Tylenol 3 and so forth.
They work by deadening your nerves and prolonged use can permanently
damage your auditory nerves.

My doctor at John's Hopkins is working on a paper about this very issue.
Rush Limbaugh was also one of his patients.

His addiction to pain killers and daily use of headphones has caused irreversable
auditory nerve damage.

My friends, just remember that your ears are the only piece of high end gear
that no amount of money can replace when they're worn out.
Old 20th January 2007
  #22
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I think actual ear fatigue is a big issue, but I think there's another issue, which I'll call 'mixer fatigue.'

After several hours on a mix, you can get to a place where you really can't 'hear' anymore. Your ears are fine, but you can't seem to identify relative levels, eq sounds wrong, etc. For this, the best cure is to listen to some familiar music, at the same level, same position, etc. Not exactly to reference to, but just to reset your brain, and recontextualize your mix. I find that by doing that, I have less of those days where I listen back to the mix the next morning and go "What the hell?"

Learning how to listen, how to get into the mix, is a big help, too. If you know what you're going for, and how to get there, you're going to be focused and effective, as opposed to trying to massage the entire mix, and getting frustrated (headache is a good symptom of this).

But as to the ear fatigue issue, monitor quietly, take breaks, make sure you know your monitors and room very well, and give yourself some quiet time. A little buss compression/limiting can help tame peaks, and know that clipped and distorted sounds are more fatiguing to the ear (as is music or sound that you don't enjoy!)
Old 20th January 2007
  #23
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any of you suffer from tinnitus?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinnitus
Old 21st January 2007
  #24
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taturana's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by adrianex View Post
cool, Yeah I think your mix levels are rigth (pretty much same as mine). Give it a try with different monitors.

Regarding the NS-10, they were never the monitors for me. I couldn't say they suck, because so many great albums have been mix trhu them, but they werent for me.

My best advice is to find a dealer close to you that will let you try different monitors.

Good luck and cheers
yeah... ns-10 are very hard on the ears... the treble part i mean.. (i does not even have a low end i can speak of...) .. definitely not a solution there...

headphones are even worse... they will fatigue the ear a lot faster...
Old 21st January 2007
  #25
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I find event asp8's very good, I still get listening fatigue but not as much, I find a cuppa tea helps too as it can help your muscles relax. I find listening fatigue makes my whole body feel fatigued tense, especially after mixing tense music, have regular chillout breaks, something which is taking hours to get right can sometimes be done in minutes after a break, so you can save yourself time by having breaks.
Old 21st January 2007
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Suitcase View Post
I think actual ear fatigue is a big issue, but I think there's another issue, which I'll call 'mixer fatigue.'

After several hours on a mix, you can get to a place where you really can't 'hear' anymore. Your ears are fine, but you can't seem to identify relative levels, eq sounds wrong, etc. For this, the best cure is to listen to some familiar music, at the same level, same position, etc. Not exactly to reference to, but just to reset your brain, and recontextualize your mix. I find that by doing that, I have less of those days where I listen back to the mix the next morning and go "What the hell?"

Yeah! That's EXACTLY what I was talking about. You feel a bit disoriented, like it's hard to grab onto things sonically. It's kind of like the audio comes in your ears, but your brain can no longer process it or make sense of it, so it feels like you're mixing "blind".

That sounds more like what I was trying to say. It's not that your ears are blasted from high levels, but it's like you'ved been focused and concentrating so hard, and made so many adjustments, that your brain becomes "dull" and the mix just sounds (to your ears) like a big mushy wall of sound. At that point it seems hard to determine whether anything you're doing to the mix is making it better, or worse.
Old 21st January 2007
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by khameln View Post
Yeah! That's EXACTLY what I was talking about. You feel a bit disoriented, like it's hard to grab onto things sonically. It's kind of like the audio comes in your ears, but your brain can no longer process it or make sense of it, so it feels like you're mixing "blind".

That sounds more like what I was trying to say. It's not that your ears are blasted from high levels, but it's like you'ved been focused and concentrating so hard, and made so many adjustments, that your brain becomes "dull" and the mix just sounds (to your ears) like a big mushy wall of sound. At that point it seems hard to determine whether anything you're doing to the mix is making it better, or worse.
than you have to improve your concentration.

with yoga or something like that!

ciao
Old 21st January 2007
  #28
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Another thing that happens, and you really have to watch for this, is that as you mix, you're pushing the overall rms up, until you're either clipping the output bus, or hitting any 2bus compressor too hard, and making the whole thing sound like mush.

I like to periodically bring all of the faders back a little bit, whenever I start to feel like my adjustments aren't doing what I'd like.

I don't know if you're in a DAW, or console or what, but I use Cubase, and it's possible t o select all of the channels, then use the cursor keys to bring everything down together. That can help open the mix back up a bit, if you've been pushing levels up through inserts and additive eqs...
Old 21st January 2007
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by khameln View Post
but I'm def...
Well that might have something to do with it
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