Can Playing the Piano Cause Hearing Loss?

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This is Robert Estrin at with a viewer question. “Can playing the piano cause hearing damage?” You may be concerned about this. You’ve got one pair of ears for your whole life and you don’t want to blow it, right? We all know that rock and roll musicians often suffer from ear damage. You might not know that symphony orchestra players suffer from ear damage as well. It’s a hazard of the trade. Just think what it’s like when you have sixty or so musicians on stage. You might have timpani behind you, or a trumpet section blaring in your ears. It’s a real problem. To mitigate this, there are acoustic baffles made of plexiglass to help with sound while maintaining visibility to the conductor. What about the piano?

Is playing the piano safe for your ears?

Not necessarily. Whenever we help people choosing pianos, one of the first things we ask is where the piano is going. It’s important to match the piano to the room. For example, think of a seven-foot semi-concert grand. It’s glorious to play in a large room with high ceilings. But what if you put a piano like this into a small bedroom? Would it be okay there? Possibly, if you have really thick carpeting, thick drapes, sofas, beds, and other materials that absorb sound. It might sound fine. But with all solid walls, hardwood floors, low ceiling, even a baby grand could be a problem. The voicing of your piano also makes a big difference. Pianos get brighter the more you play them, and some pianos naturally are brighter.

Asian pianos tend to be brighter than American pianos.

If you have a really bright Asian piano in a room where the acoustics are very live, you could indeed inflict ear damage. A lot of it comes down to common sense. One telltale sign that you’ve gone too far is if you ever get ringing in your ears after playing your piano. That is a very strong danger sign. You should back off for a few days because if you experience ringing in your ears repeatedly, you can develop tinnitus. You can have a constant ringing in your ears that never goes away. You also must be careful how you place your piano as well as what room it goes into.

The voicing of your piano by your piano technician can make it louder or softer.

Naturally, whether your piano is open or closed will also make a big difference in volume. Years ago I had the experience of practicing in little tiny cubicles at school. Playing in a room like that makes you feel really powerful because it is easy to generate huge amounts of sound. Then playing in the concert hall even on a nine-foot concert grand piano in such a huge space, you’d feel like you weren’t making much sound at all. It was unnerving because in the practice rooms you could bang out anything. You could overplay the piano because they were played so much they became overly bright on top of playing in a confined space. It was easy to play loud and fast without any trouble articulating everything in that situation. Practicing in a room where things are too loud is not only bad for your ears, but it doesn’t prepare you to play other pianos in better situations.

I hope this is helpful for you and we appreciate the questions coming in! Again, this is Robert Estrin at Your Online Piano Store. Thanks for joining me.