Is distorted sound causing hearing damage, while playing piano?


Hi, I have had tinnitus for years now, and I notice when I play acoustic grand piano I often hear distortions when I play. I would like to know if this indicates that the sound is too loud for me and is damaging, or if it’s likely just a symptom of hyperacusis due to my tinnitus and that I can therefore safely ignore the jangling in my ear and continue playing? My hearing has been tested last week and is completely normal, and I dont notice this distortion with softer sounds and other instruments. Am I causing more damage by playing piano now?



It depends on how loud it is. There are devices that measure sound and there are published guidelines for noise exposure. It is safer to go by standard guidelines than rely on or try to interpret a feeling or impression.



Thanks Don, yes I have measured it at 80db. Seems like a safe level, but I’m worried that maybe my ears are extra sensitive, or of course its possible its just a by product of my hyperacusis and I should just ignore it, the distortions meaning



you didn’t say what brand /model your hearing aid is. Some brand/model doesn’t have enough dynamic range on their input mic, and can’t handle loud transient attacks from percussion or string instruments like the piano, which result in distortion.

You want to look for hearing aids with input dynamic range as high as 114 dB SPL or more to handle live music.



Do you have a music program installed as an option? I basically disables all of the compression and some or all noise reduction features built into your HA. HA’s are designed to focus on speaking voices and try to eliminate tones outside of that range–like, all of the overtones in the notes on your piano, and higher and lower decibles. It’s possible this feature might eliminate the distorted sound that you’re hearing.



Sorry everyone, I should probably not have posted this topic on this forum. I thought it was for general hearing issues. I do not wear hearing aids. I just have tinnitus.



Have you checked if other people hear distortion, too? With grand pianos in smaller room (you don’t play in a hall, I guess) there often is something ringing / swinging that should not. This often sounds like distortion. Also, if the piano is out of tune or the felt needs some intonation, this can sound like distortion either.

If others do not hear strange sound, I would be careful. I use hearing protection when I play long and loudly on my grand piano (if I play softer tunes, I don’t use protection). You can use elacin-plugs with 9dB attenuation, so you still have a good sound. I guess, if you can afford a grand piano, you can afford professional plugs, too.

1 Like


Musician 72, the odd thing is I hear the distortions more with earplugs in, since I hear less acoustic sound. And yes, I got the pro plugs from Westone. No one else seems to hear these distortions which seems to indicate that this is some sort of bone auditory conduction, kind of like hearing yourself breath, some sort of conduction from the fingers maybe. That still doesn’t answer my concern about damage though.



Ok, this sounds weird (not in the sense that I do not believe you, but in the sense that I do not know what to make out of it).

I gues that you have seen an ENT because of your tinnitus. Maybe you should go there again and ask what could cause the distortion, I have no idea.

As for the damage: A grand piano, especially in a small room, can cause damage in the long term. I’d say if you play less than an hour a day it is unlikely to cause damage, though. I used to play 3 to 5 hours a day when I was younger, maybe this has accelerated my hearing loss - who knows.

How big is your room and how big the piano?



What do these distortions sound like?



Neville, I mostly hear just the note, but there’s a jangling sound, that sort of surrounds it.



ENT I’m afraid doesnt deal with tinnitus. Relatively large piano 5 11, medium room, lots of foam



Oh, it’s just your tinnitus. No other unusual sounds when you play piano?

Then yeah, ignore it.



Ok, though that sort of auditory perception only comes into play when hit the notes. My regular constant tinnitus sounds nothing like it.



Is it the jangly bits that are new? Are the jangly bits centered around your tinnitus, or around the note? Is it all of the keys that cause this percept, or just some of them? Does it vary when you play loud/soft? You don’t get any buzzy sounds–like hearing through a bad speaker?

(Note: I am interested, but not concerned.)



I have eustachian tube dysfunction and sometimes fluid accumulates behind my eardrum and causes distortion, especially when I play guitar. It’s awfui, and sounds like listening through a bad speaker, as Neville says. Sadly this can take weeks or more to resolve. Anti histamines that open the eustachian tubes are a good bet here. Still can take a long time.



Not really like a bad speaker, can hear clearly, its centered around the note. I only hear it at moderate volumes. Starting to suspect it may be the actual piano though. Just some kind of overtone. Not sure.



Well that’s disappointing. :rofl:



Update. Almost positive it’s my ears and not the piano. Did experiment with earmuffs, ringing goes away even though I can hear even the key clicks. Also the jangling generally sounds like it’s in my head no sound source direction



Hm. Even if you hit the key harder?

Does it happen with other pianos? Recorded piano music? Other sounds?