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Conditioned Hearing; Fact Or Fiction?


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I have a really random question for anyone who wants to answer it... Is our hearing conditioned just like our other senses (i.e. smell, taste, etc..)? And if so, is there anyway to bring yourself back to "base level"? When I'm making beats/instrumentals/etc.. I often find myself listening to the same sounds over and over and over, sometimes for hours.. and it starts to sound completely different then when I had initially began! I dunno if maybe I'm just crazy, but it would make sense for the most part.. The best example I can think of is when people are testing multiple food items, or multiple fragrances.. After awhile your senses get overwhelmed and need to be brought back to a base level, for fragrances they use coffee beans.. Is there anything like that for hearing?

-takes a deep breath-

[smiley=microwave.gif]

I told you it was a really random question!

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Good one Ryan. You've got me thinking as has Tom after reading his blog link.

Off the top of my head (so not much deep thought gone into this), either try listening to the music you first liked (so back to the beginning) or try listening to some music you would never listen to (classical, jazz).

No idea if it will work but if it does for you (or not), let us know.

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..or smoke pot !

i mean it

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As a moderator, I must insist that you refrain from advising people to partake in any illegal activities please.

Now I've done that, you got any good sources?

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I think most of our senses are highly 'customized' by training (with the possible exception of taste, gnarf*).

That means your brain does a lot of filtering/processing, and can totally interfere with your experience/objectivity. Taking a break from the activity is usually the easiest (and legal) way to 'reset' this process. You should also keep in mind that the longer the sessions, the longer the time-out should be.

I don't think there's any magical quick fix, short of debilitating drugs or electro-shocks. These also reset your brain to a certain extent, but rather bluntly, and can influence more than you bargained for. :)

* (as in: babies probably ALL think bitter is yuck, until you *maybe* get accustomed to it)

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Hey

It's called "Ear Fatigue". The difference in perception of sound is partly down to general tiredness and TTS (Temporary Threshold Shift). In essence you need to rest your ears to recover from it. As mentioned get up, walk arund go do something else.

You can reduce this by using monitors and headphones that are specially designed to reduce ear fatigue. In fact that is one reason for using "open back" headphones when mixing, versus closed or semi-closed back headphones you would use during recording. (Open backs cause less tiredness but the spill from them will easily be picked up by any recording microphones ruining any vocal takes.

Cheers

John

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Thank you all for replying so promptly! I really didn't know how this topic would be received.. but am happily surprised many of you have thought about this as well..

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It's called "Ear Fatigue".

Yes, but it does not really explain the phenomenon that something can sound 'good' or 'interesting' several hours into a session, while it sounds like utter crud on first relisten next day. There's more to it than just fatigued eardrums, I think your musical objectivity also goes somewhat out the window with endless repetition. :)

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I thought I would one-up neoism's pot suggestion. :) They could both work though, since I think it's partly a brain phenomenon - although I suspect pot could very well worsen the problem of slipping into 'repetitive mode', since it alleviates sense of tedium, up to a point.

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Yes, but it does not really explain the phenomenon that something can sound 'good' or 'interesting' several hours into a session, while it sounds like utter crud on first relisten next day.

In a roundabout way it might... during a long mixing session you lose perspective and start thinking: "need more bass", "need more air", "snare drum needs more 'verb", etc... each change sounds good at the time, but in the morning when you listen with fresh ears you realize it's a swirling vortex of shit.

On the other hand, if you're listening to the same thing over and over and get tired of it, the next thing you listen to might seem good or interesting just due to the novelty of it, but again, with fresh ears you say "what was I thinking?"

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swirling vortex of shit

You guessed my new album name ... how ... why ... ???

:)

But seriously, I understand your point - but I meant stuff that isn't mixed bad, just stuff that on second hearing sounds daft or crazy, like.

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  • Editors

Happens to me too all the time.For me listening to something else doesnt work at all.When Im usually composing something with a guitar in hand,I eventually find it 'not amusing' anymore,and if I decide to play something else,It still doesnt change my mindset,maybe because the tone of my guitar contributes to that mindset with the tune. The only thing that makes me come out of that is like what Rob and John said,take a walk or do something completely different.

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Am I the only silent voice here?

*farts*

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  • 2 months later...

Sorry if I'm resurrecting an old post :)

I was recording a song last week. (first I've written in over a year!)

I put down the instruments and lead vox fine. Then I recorded a few vocal harmonies. They sounded great while I was doing it, even on playback. I saved the mixdown and went off to do something else.

When I listened to the track, the harmonies were, literally, all over the place. There were four - each worked with at least one other - but together they were appalling ;(

I'm not a great musicians, just a hobbyist, but I like to think I've got a reasonably good ear. Hopefully this was just the phenomena talked about here :)

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  • 3 months later...
It's called "Ear Fatigue". The difference in perception of sound is partly down to general tiredness and TTS (Temporary Threshold Shift).

As an interesting aside, TTS is clear evidence that people who listen to music at high sound pressure levels are imbeciles.

Not only are they setting themselves up for tinitus and notches in the spectral domain of their hearing when they get older, but the muscles of the ossicular chain simply relax so that within a few minutes they no longer percieve the loud music as being loud.

I know most people in their teens and early twenties think that by the time they're forty, bad hearing will be the least of their worries because they'll be too arthritic and decrepit to operate studio equipment anyway, but take heed!

When you approach middle age, giving up producing music may well be far from your mind.

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