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Mix Compensation for Hearing Impairment?

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When mixing, how can I compensate for the fact that I'm partially deaf in one ear? From hearing tests, I know the approximate range and more or less how deaf I am in db.

Is there a way to turn this information into some kind of filter so that—using headphones—I can still get decent results? Or am I just at that point in life where I should forget about recording and just content myself with playing on the porch?

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Posted (edited)

I'm sure this is a common problem  with the aging boomer generation. I have severely compromised high-frequency hearing acquired in the military. Up until now my strategy has been to mix it as best as I can taking into account my hearing loss and then letting a lot of different people including people on this forum hear what I've done.

If I recall correctly sonarworks plugin has an algorithm that applies correction based on the average frequency degradation for a given age range, but I don't know if that will help you given the nature of your hearing loss.

I think what makes the most sense is knowing what frequencies are compromised and setting up a special EQ that compensates for them.  

However you choose to deal with it,  sitting on the porch hasn't been an option for me.

Edited by Kevin Walsh

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Thanks, Kevin. I found a discussion on another forum about this and most said that despite hearing loss, it didn't seem to affect their mixes. A few said they'd had others with confirmed good hearing listen only to find that the mixes were fine. I suppose the thing to do is carry on and play it by ear. :)

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Izotope tonal balance control can be helpful to get some feedback about how the frequencies of a song match with their preset references. Reference tracks might help just to check and stuff like eq matching to a mix you like.  Porches are fun recording is more fun 😀

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On 5/24/2021 at 11:02 AM, treesha said:

Izotope tonal balance control can be helpful to get some feedback about how the frequencies of a song match with their preset references. Reference tracks might help just to check and stuff like eq matching to a mix you like.  Porches are fun recording is more fun 😀

Thanks, treesha, and I agree... about the porches. :)

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I don't think anyone hears identically in both ears. I certainly don't. My left ear is more sensitive to upper mids and high frequencies. I blame it on many years standing stage left with bands blasting into my right ear. Now, when I talk on the phone it's always held to my left ear. To make sure that's not coloring my mixes, I'll flip my headphones around and see if I still like the mix. (I don't mix on headphones, but headphones in a dark room are always my final QA test.)

If the frequency response is similar in both ears, the easiest solution is in the pan control on the master bus (or headphone mix bus if you use one). That control is a simple balance control like the one on your hi-fi labeled "Balance". It just controls the relative left and right volumes.

But if your "bad" ear doesn't register high frequencies as well as the other one, an equalizer can be set up based on the results of your hearing test. Hopefully, the test resulted in a detailed frequency response graph. If not, get a better hearing test from an audiologist who does hearing aids. They have to know the frequency response when prescribing hearing aids, which have built-in filters just for such compensation. The results of such a test should allow you to use an EQ plugin the same way an audiologist adjusts those filters.

I'd suggest setting up a headphone mix bus if you don't already have one, and have an audio interface that features extra outputs or that can route specified inputs to the headphones. This is a bus that doesn't go out to the main speakers and isn't involved during exports - it's just for monitoring via headphones. Having a separate bus for your headphone mix not only means you can compensate for hearing imbalances, but also for the frequency imbalances that are built-in to the headphones themselves. Of course, you could also just insert the compensation on the master bus, but then you'd need to remember to bypass those plugins whenever you export.

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Significant hearing loss in one ear makes me mistrust my own choices in panning and levels during mixing. Has anybody else experimented with setting the master bus to mono occasionally to see if the levels of the different parts work that way? Maybe this brings the issue of panning laws into the equation.

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A common practice is to set levels/balances in mono first, before any panning.

That's not done to make panning more effective, but rather to help prevent the phenomenon where the mix balance sounds fine in stereo but only when listening in the sweet spot between the speakers. That's because panning creates clarity through separation; lose the separation and you lose the clarity. For example, you might be listening to a mix from the next room and noting that it suddenly sounds inexplicably muddy. 

That doesn't directly address your question, though. A solution is to modify your monitoring balance to compensate for the hearing imbalance. After you've done that, you can be confident that others will hear your pan decisions the same way you do.

I compensate for unbalanced sensitivity between my ears by adding about 2 db of extra gain on my right speaker. I play some white noise, sit smackdab in the middle between the speakers, close my eyes and listen for the "phantom center".  If it sounds centered, I know the right speaker is now correctly compensating for the lower sensitivity in my right ear. I could accomplish the same end using the balance control on the master bus, but prefer to adjust the speaker because it's a set-and-forget solution.

 

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same here. also switch between mono and stereo, plus use my single mono speaker physically set dead center and i tweak the levels on the speakers and the monitor controller (and sub etc) until they're all balanced for levels and panning. then anything i do in the "console" to pan etc works as expected. i'm wagering many people don't calibrate their system to compensate for deviations in their hearing, it would probably be a surprise to find people with perfectly balanced hearing...

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