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Eardrums aren't matched... Is this common?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I just did some tube rolling today and decided to try out some test tones for bass response. I noticed my right channel was way more sensitive to low frequencies, like 3-6db more sensitive, and it was very noticeable. I started freaking out about tube imbalance at first. However, before switching L-R tubes I switched the headphone drivers around on my head, wearing the left driver on my right hand side. That was the horror moment... the uncanny... the unsettling... the sensitivity imbalance was still there! I can change out tubes, fix drivers, but as far as I'm aware it's not possible to switch out ear drums. I took the step of balancing out the channels via my sound card drivers, but I'm concerned about throwing off the higher frequencies where the eardrum imbalance is not as bad. Just wondering how many other people might suffer from this problem, and steps they took to correct it.

post #2 of 17
What kind of headphones?
post #3 of 17
I always find that vocals and centered music comes from a little to the right side of center, ear imbalance as I've switched sides with headphones and is still noticeable. Noticed it with all headphones, some worse than others.
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 

Beyerdynamic DT880 600ohm. But I tried a variety of test tones on my Grado SR-80s now too, switching drivers from left to right, and they were doing the same thing.... or more accurately, my ears were doing the same thing. Kind of a bummer.

post #5 of 17

I've experienced that too.

Especially after I go through a flu cycle, my hearing balance almost always goes bad. Something to do with fluid build up in the Eustachian tubes. Currently I'm hearing my music with a slight shift to the left.

 

And then suddenly, one day, it clears up. Audio bliss.

post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by proton007 View Post

I've experienced that too.

Especially after I go through a flu cycle, my hearing balance almost always goes bad. Something to do with fluid build up in the Eustachian tubes. Currently I'm hearing my music with a slight shift to the left.

 

And then suddenly, one day, it clears up. Audio bliss.

 

I'm going to make an appointment to see a doctor. I hope it might be a wax or fluid buildup issue, and for all the money I've spent on audio I think it's time to show my organic transducers a little love, since they've been with me my whole life and it all comes down to them in the long run. After balancing the channels out L to R the stereo image returned to center though.  Might sound funny, but up till now I thought the right bias in vocals was an engineering technique to separate the instrumentals. blink.gif


Edited by Strangelove424 - 11/5/12 at 1:07pm
post #7 of 17

Quote:

Originally Posted by Strangelove424 View Post

 

Might sound funny, but up till now I thought the right bias in vocals was an engineering technique to separate the instrumentals. blink.gif

 

Actually thats true for a lot of songs. The voice doesn't always have to be center.

post #8 of 17

There are definitely a lot of factors that can create hearing imbalance. Just off the top of my head I can think of:

-Outer ear shape.

-Ear canal shape/diameter.

-Ear wax. Some people produce too much wax and end up with plugs, and use of IEMs can increase wax production. NEVER try to remove it yourself if you think you have wax plugs, you can severely damage your eardrums and at best probably just push the wax back in. This is definitely a job for a doctor with the correct equipment.

-Differences between eardrum structure (probably from damage).

-Eustachian tube differences. Probably a lot of different causes here, including fluid blockage, inflamation, or just structural differences. Abnormal adenoid development can block one or both sides.

-Cochlear damage (often from unilateral exposure to extremely loud sounds, for example using firearms without hearing protection).

-Nerve damage or inflamation.

-Neurological processing differences? Like with hands and eyes you should have a dominant ear, and I wouldn't be surprised to find that this can impact positional audio perception a little.

-Ménière's disease. I like mentioning this one because it's one of those great vague disorders you can enjoy being paranoid about. ;)

 

I find that I have about a 1-2 db balance issue favoring the left. I would imagine basically everyone has some amount of offset considering the number of "moving parts" involved in sound perception, but anything less than 1dB is fairly hard to detect. People who don't use headphones very often may never notice it; I find that I automatically adjust my head slightly when I'm watching TV, which fixes the center channel position.

 

As far as dealing with it on the source end of things here's what I've come up with so far:

-Remember that some amps have channel balance errors themselves. It's good to know what your amp is doing so you can factor that in when you're making adjustments. While many decent amps have a balance that would be considered inaudible, if it's in the same direction as your head's balance problem it can just make the whole thing worse.

 

-The Fiio E17 has a digital balance control that will let you make small adjustments to balance. I'm not sure exactly how small the increments are but I'll be finding out tomorrow when mine arrives. If you're okay with it doing pre-amping you can use this balance setting and still plug it into a heftier amp, but I know a lot of people consider double amping to be extra-forbidden.

 

-If you use an iPhone/iPod Touch you'll find a balance option under settings->general->accessibility. Unfortunately it's not very precise, being a standard ios slider with no numbers. It also snaps to center, and for me this means that the range I actually want for adjustment isn't available (the lowest right position you can get it to stick to is more than I want). If your hearing offset is more significant then this might be an okay option.

 

-There's at least one equalizer app for iOS that can do per-channel EQ, which you can use to adjust as needed. The disadvantage is that you'll have to play your music through the app as it's not allowed to have any effect on what the default player does.

 

-OSX has a slider a lot like the iOS one, which is sort of a slide and listen situation where you can't input specific dB offsets. It also has snap to center but it's less severe because the slider itself is so much larger. Not very accurate but I can find the right balance with it.

 

-Android doesn't seem to have any left/right balance options available, which seems bizarre to me considering how much you can configure in Android. It's unfortunate because if any portable device was going to have numerical balance controls like Windows, I'd expect it to be an Android device. Someone correct me if I'm wrong here.

 

-Easy in Windows. Balance options in volume controls per device, you can even right click and go to dB mode instead of the far less useful percentage. If all your listening is through a Windows computer you can ignore everything else I just wrote.

 

That's all I can think of at the moment. Seeing your doctor, or even an ENT specialist about it is probably a good idea, especially if it turns out to be something easily correctable. I've actually never done this for some reason.

post #9 of 17

Since I live on the 128th floor, altitude sickness and vertigo affects my music listening, vocals are panned around 5 degrees to the right, so then I talk on my mobile phone in my left ear and wear my watch on my right wrist, and drink tonic water.

post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AtomicWalrus View Post

There are definitely a lot of factors that can create hearing imbalance. Just off the top of my head I can think of:

-Outer ear shape.

-Ear canal shape/diameter.

-Ear wax. Some people produce too much wax and end up with plugs, and use of IEMs can increase wax production. NEVER try to remove it yourself if you think you have wax plugs, you can severely damage your eardrums and at best probably just push the wax back in. This is definitely a job for a doctor with the correct equipment.

-Differences between eardrum structure (probably from damage).

-Eustachian tube differences. Probably a lot of different causes here, including fluid blockage, inflamation, or just structural differences. Abnormal adenoid development can block one or both sides.

-Cochlear damage (often from unilateral exposure to extremely loud sounds, for example using firearms without hearing protection).

-Nerve damage or inflamation.

-Neurological processing differences? Like with hands and eyes you should have a dominant ear, and I wouldn't be surprised to find that this can impact positional audio perception a little.

-Ménière's disease. I like mentioning this one because it's one of those great vague disorders you can enjoy being paranoid about. ;)

 

I find that I have about a 1-2 db balance issue favoring the left. I would imagine basically everyone has some amount of offset considering the number of "moving parts" involved in sound perception, but anything less than 1dB is fairly hard to detect. People who don't use headphones very often may never notice it; I find that I automatically adjust my head slightly when I'm watching TV, which fixes the center channel position.

 

As far as dealing with it on the source end of things here's what I've come up with so far:

-Remember that some amps have channel balance errors themselves. It's good to know what your amp is doing so you can factor that in when you're making adjustments. While many decent amps have a balance that would be considered inaudible, if it's in the same direction as your head's balance problem it can just make the whole thing worse.

 

-The Fiio E17 has a digital balance control that will let you make small adjustments to balance. I'm not sure exactly how small the increments are but I'll be finding out tomorrow when mine arrives. If you're okay with it doing pre-amping you can use this balance setting and still plug it into a heftier amp, but I know a lot of people consider double amping to be extra-forbidden.

 

-If you use an iPhone/iPod Touch you'll find a balance option under settings->general->accessibility. Unfortunately it's not very precise, being a standard ios slider with no numbers. It also snaps to center, and for me this means that the range I actually want for adjustment isn't available (the lowest right position you can get it to stick to is more than I want). If your hearing offset is more significant then this might be an okay option.

 

-There's at least one equalizer app for iOS that can do per-channel EQ, which you can use to adjust as needed. The disadvantage is that you'll have to play your music through the app as it's not allowed to have any effect on what the default player does.

 

-OSX has a slider a lot like the iOS one, which is sort of a slide and listen situation where you can't input specific dB offsets. It also has snap to center but it's less severe because the slider itself is so much larger. Not very accurate but I can find the right balance with it.

 

-Android doesn't seem to have any left/right balance options available, which seems bizarre to me considering how much you can configure in Android. It's unfortunate because if any portable device was going to have numerical balance controls like Windows, I'd expect it to be an Android device. Someone correct me if I'm wrong here.

 

-Easy in Windows. Balance options in volume controls per device, you can even right click and go to dB mode instead of the far less useful percentage. If all your listening is through a Windows computer you can ignore everything else I just wrote.

 

That's all I can think of at the moment. Seeing your doctor, or even an ENT specialist about it is probably a good idea, especially if it turns out to be something easily correctable. I've actually never done this for some reason.

 

Thanks for the info. I actually bought one of those ear cleaning kits instead of seeing a doctor, but it didn’t help and I didn’t see any wax. I haven’t seen a waxy q-tip in a while actually. I'm worried something might be clogged. I'll probably see a doctor now (eventually), although I haven't always been good to my ears, and I do have occasional "internal distortion" in the right ear, where sometimes they resonate at a certain frequency. This happens when I wear Grados for a while. Had to limit my usage of them severely.  

post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by randomkid View Post

I always find that vocals and centered music comes from a little to the right side of center, ear imbalance as I've switched sides with headphones and is still noticeable. Noticed it with all headphones, some worse than others.


Yes, I experience this also, and the best example of this that I know is the HD598. I've tried switching left and right channels and maybe that was the problem along. I'm not sure about that yet. It's also true that human's hearing works as such that the right ear is more sensitive to certain sound patterns than the left one, and vice versa. There's actually quite a lot of information available on that subject. (http://www.livescience.com/9679-people-prefer-ear-listening.html)

 

I've tried adjusting the balance during playback to see if maybe it was my hearing, but even the slightest change in balance immediately sounds 'off' to me.


Edited by Nirvana Woman - 1/4/13 at 4:58am
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nirvana Woman View Post


Yes, I experience this also, and the best example of this that I know is the HD598. I've tried switching left and right channels and maybe that was the problem along. I'm not sure about that yet. It's also true that human's hearing works as such that the right ear is more sensitive to certain sound patterns than the left one, and vice versa. There's actually quite a lot of information available on that subject. (http://www.livescience.com/9679-people-prefer-ear-listening.html)

 

I've tried adjusting the balance during playback to see if maybe it was my hearing, but even the slightest change in balance immediately sounds 'off' to me.

 

Well I got an audiogram test recently, and it turns out that my left ear has a slight dip in hearing @ 500Hz. I'm not sure about how accurate the test is, and whether it was done properly.

The most natural reaction to this is "Oh, its your MP3s and stuff, you must be listening to music at high volumes."

I told the doctor I was using IEMs to precisely prevent that from happening, and his reaction was "Oh, they go deeper into the ear canal so they're capable of much more damage."

 

I didn't know what to say to that, and I've never used big speakers, or go to clubs etc where loud music is a problem. So I'm not sure where this left-ear-dip comes from, because this is the first time I've had the test done.

post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by proton007 View Post

 

Well I got an audiogram test recently, and it turns out that my left ear has a slight dip in hearing @ 500Hz. I'm not sure about how accurate the test is, and whether it was done properly.

The most natural reaction to this is "Oh, its your MP3s and stuff, you must be listening to music at high volumes."

I told the doctor I was using IEMs to precisely prevent that from happening, and his reaction was "Oh, they go deeper into the ear canal so they're capable of much more damage."

 

I didn't know what to say to that, and I've never used big speakers, or go to clubs etc where loud music is a problem. So I'm not sure where this left-ear-dip comes from, because this is the first time I've had the test done.


Well, I guess they might be "capable" of doing more damage, but that doesn't account for the most important part, which is how you actually used them.

 

Did you tell that doctor beforehand that you felt you might be experiencing this imbalance?

 

Hopefully the test is reliable; it would seem rather upsetting to me if now you had to go through life thinking you have this dip in hearing, while actually there'd still be a chance of the test showing an incorrect result. Especially because you probably went through the test to find answers, and not more questions :).


Edited by Nirvana Woman - 1/6/13 at 5:49am
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nirvana Woman View Post


Well, I guess they might be "capable" of doing more damage, but that doesn't account for the most important part, which is how you actually used them.

 

Did you tell that doctor beforehand that you felt you might be experiencing this imbalance?

 

Hopefully the test is reliable; it would seem rather upsetting to me if now you had to go through life thinking you have this dip in hearing, while actually there'd still be a chance of the test showing an incorrect result. Especially because you probably went through the test to find answers, and not more questions :).

 

I told the doctor I was hearing the music shifted to the right slightly, and it started noticing it suddenly.

I'd also had a bad case of flu a few weeks ago, and the doctor did check for any inner ear pressure, but it was all fine.

 

And I did get more questions in the end, the First one being, why so sudden? If its gradual I doubt I would've noticed it.

Secondly, why only left ear? Music should affect both ears, right?

Thirdly, I'm not sure if the imbalance was due to a blocked sinus, or eustachian tube, and now I may be just imagining things, you know, placebo.

 

I don't know, my listening time isn't very high either, so there are a lot of questions.

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by proton007 View Post

 

I told the doctor I was hearing the music shifted to the right slightly, and it started noticing it suddenly.

I'd also had a bad case of flu a few weeks ago, and the doctor did check for any inner ear pressure, but it was all fine.

 

And I did get more questions in the end, the First one being, why so sudden? If its gradual I doubt I would've noticed it.

Secondly, why only left ear? Music should affect both ears, right?

Thirdly, I'm not sure if the imbalance was due to a blocked sinus, or eustachian tube, and now I may be just imagining things, you know, placebo.

 

I don't know, my listening time isn't very high either, so there are a lot of questions.

 

Yeah I definitely understand. Maybe the best way to gain peace of mind is to ask to do that test again, when you're sure your health isn't a factor.

 

Have you tried adjusting the balance? Also, maybe try changing right and left channels and see if your right ear still seems to be dominant.

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