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Mander Organs
Colin Pykett

Hearing aids and the organist

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Thank you for these insights, which are very useful.  They have helped me to identify someone who seems to do what I want and has a good reputation - he is a weekly peripatetic visitor at a nearby private GP practice (our much-vaunted NHS is progressively washing its hands of anything remotely connected with primary care.  A GP?  If you succeed in meeting one nowadays let me know and I'll have her/him stuffed for you ... ).  This  guy also does home visits.

And while on the subject of hearing, my wife took two of our little grandsons to a pantomime yesterday.  I won't say where in case it invites litigation, for reasons you will discover from what I'm about to say.  On returning she was appalled at the sound levels encountered, and even today she is still suffering somewhat in the ears from the after effects of prolonged and very loud sounds.  As one of my said grandsons, aged 7, is also here today I decided to test their hearing using a simple and not very accurate form of pure tone audiometry.  I rigged up a sine wave generator to my hifi system and asked them to turn the frequency dial progressively higher until they could no longer hear anything.  Prior to that I had set the listening level at 250 Hz (roughly middle C) slightly on the high side of 'comfortable'.  In advance I had also predicted that the 7 year old would be able to hear beyond 16 kHz, my wife to around 13 kHz and myself to about 8 kHz (a note or two below top C on a Fifteenth organ stop).  Although I know what my professionally-generated audiogram looks like and could therefore predict confidently what the result would be in my case, it also turned out that the other predictions were spot on.  So fortunately there were no signs of obvious or major damage as a result of going to the panto.

However it does raise the issue of whether sound levels at public events are as well controlled as they are in the workplace.  Even if the legislation is in place, and I'm not sure that it is, how well is it adhered to?  It is just not acceptable that in a nominally 'advanced' society and in this day and age that we should even have to question whether event promoters are allowed to play fast and loose with our hearing, and particularly that of our children.  No wonder so many of us on this forum need hearing aids.

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4 hours ago, Colin Pykett said:

However it does raise the issue of whether sound levels at public events are as well controlled as they are in the workplace.  Even if the legislation is in place, and I'm not sure that it is, how well is it adhered to?  It is just not acceptable that in a nominally 'advanced' society and in this day and age that we should even have to question whether event promoters are allowed to play fast and loose with our hearing, and particularly that of our children.  No wonder so many of us on this forum need hearing aids.

Theatres and concert halls are workplaces so are subject to workplace legislation.

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46 minutes ago, innate said:

Theatres and concert halls are workplaces so are subject to workplace legislation.

But that only applies to the staff, whether performing or front of house. There are (to my knowledge) no similar protections for the paying public. 

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In the 1980s the company for which I worked bought some IBM desktop PCs for "selected" staff and arranged for us to have some training in the IBM Basic programming language.

 As part of the the work-based applications which sent a "beep" if an input error was made I discovered that my PC had a very simple sound card and speaker. As a bit of fun I wrote a simple program which played frequencies ranging from x to y where each was set from an input menu. Mainly with the aim of annoying people I set it to gradually descend from 30 khz to 15khz and see whom from the year's intake of actuarial students I mentored picked up the sound and roughly where in the selected range.

The results from just watching their reactions were actually quite interesting and during a couple of lunch breaks it was possible to talk to the youngsters, aged 21 - 23, and correlate very roughly their sensitivity to high frequencies with their student lifestyles while at university. It became obvious that 1 or 2 of them who had frequented what I probably referred to as pop concerts and nightclubs did have quite badly attenuated hearing in the higher ranges and I inferred that the two were not unconnected.

 

 

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9 minutes ago, David Surtees said:

But that only applies to the staff, whether performing or front of house. There are (to my knowledge) no similar protections for the paying public. 

Sure, but the staff includes the Director of the show and other so-called “creatives” who will try to sit in every area of the auditorium during preview performances so will need to be protected.

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Profound thanks to Colin for starting this thread and his insight to the whole hearing loss issue for musicians.  Everything here confirms my own experiences with hearing aids.  It’s soon time for my fifth set. A retired organ builder, treble deaf from years of tuning loud reeds with no ear protection, I still do some key holding for a younger tuner who assures me that the top octave of the great fifteenth is actually playing.

Priority consideration for new devices will be based upon what is best for conversation.  If a music program is also offered, amplitude in the speech range will be reduced and the near useless algorithms that introduce surround sound and tremulant turned off.  As usual, finding an experienced audiologist who can fine tune the aids will be the most challenging part of the decision making process.  Properly adjusted, I expect to enjoy music again, and organs with screechy upper work may actually sound better.

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It’s interesting with so many forum members needing hearing aids.  Is this just a product of age?  Or is there a genuine risk of “workplace” induced loss due to prolonged exposure to loud music. 

Online searching suggests prolonged exposure to anything over 75db can be a problem. Not sure how this equates to a louder registration.  But it can’t be far off. 

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4 hours ago, AndrewG said:

It’s interesting with so many forum members needing hearing aids.  Is this just a product of age?  Or is there a genuine risk of “workplace” induced loss due to prolonged exposure to loud music. 

Online searching suggests prolonged exposure to anything over 75db can be a problem. Not sure how this equates to a louder registration.  But it can’t be far off. 

In my case, deafness (like so much else wrong) is a function of old age but was initiated by my time as a commercial pilot of piston-engined aircraft. I very much doubt that organ playing induces this condition - I think one would have to spend many continuous hours at a large and powerful instrument with constant pleno to induce any likelihood of hearing damage. My authority for suggesting this is that Virgil Fox retained his aural faculties unto the end. 

No brick bats, please!

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