CAS Quarterly

Spring 2024

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Page 75 of 79

If the wheels are already turning in your head, you may already be thinking of the direct correlation between pitches or tones (music) and frequencies and sound waves (audio). And that is where I encountered my first aha moment as a bright-eyed audio engineering student back in 2006 when my classmates and I were introduced to Golden Ears Training by David Moulton. Just like any spin class or hot yoga session, many classmates tapped out and didn't get why studying and identifying white noise at different frequencies was beneficial. I can tell you right now, within weeks, I was handing in assignments where my mix decisions were far more precise than they were prior to that type of training. And again, the former athlete in me couldn't resist doing the training on my own, sometimes for fun, annoying my friends and family if given the chance to listen to white noise blasts at 4 kHz driving on the freeway. Without going too far off the rails, the whole concept of calisthenics refers to using what you already have to train the body to see gains—or in some cases—losses. Here are some of the basic methods that were shared with me during my career that don't require a subscription or purchase of any sort. Some are blatantly obvious, while others not so much. Take frequent breaks: While this is the most obvious way to preserve ear health and extend our careers for as long as possible, you'd be surprised how easy it is to fall prey to analysis paralysis, getting caught up in the moment, or pressing to meet harsh deadlines. Ear fatigue is real and when you consider how the body reacts to trauma holistically, it makes sense that we should "take five" whenever possible at consistent intervals. This way, we can create room for better work and proper recovery. Mix at low volume(s): A tried-and-true method with a handful of benefits. For starters, if you're pressed for time and taking a 5-minute to 15-minute break is out of the question, lowering the volume can take the edge off a bit, while helping you dial into the dynamic range of the program you're mixing by revealing compression and limiting issues that might not be as obvious when listening at full volume while ear fatigue begins to rear its ugly head. Introduce a low humming sound to your mix room: This one's a little wonky and not for everyone, but an old professor of mine put me on to the trick. Now, I wouldn't recommend doing this on a major mix stage or on any type of deadline, but if you pull up old projects to work on your technique, having a fan or a heater somewhere in the room can have interesting results on your brain's natural ability to ignore what it doesn't need to focus on and instead turn up the focus level of what you're actually trying to focus on. Again, it's a strange hack that can either be incredibly annoying and distracting or help you dial in your mix. It'll ultimately boil down to the way you think and process information. Ear-training exercises: You may have already checked out the highly recommended and university staple website that's now subscription based (I still own the CD from when the training was presented that way), but there are tons of options out there that are a simple Google search or GPT chat away. You may discover that most of your research is geared toward the hearing impaired, but sift through long enough and you'll find a few gems. Avoid extended listening sessions with in-ear headphones: Audiologists all seem to agree that on-ear and over-ear headphones are best for long-term listening for leisure or for work. Their concern remains that pumping sound directly into the ear canal increases the likelihood of damage over time. Depending on the brand, the basic in-ear experience isn't ideal for noise canceling, which causes most people to crank up the volume to listen in spaces that introduce noise. Another not- so-obvious issue is the buildup of earwax that can get pushed further into our ears, which can cause health issues over time on their own. Eat healthy: While grossly oversimplified, the ear is an organ that is susceptible to fatigue as well as inflammation and a host of other issues and disorders that can be healed over time with proper rest and diet. Potassium-rich foods help regulate bodily fluids in our organs, including the cochlea, which has a decent amount of fluid inside. Folate (or Vitamin B9) came up often in my research of hearing-loss prevention. Everything from Omega-3 and Vitamins A, C, and E have all been associated with overall hearing health and longevity. At the end of the day, our ears have earned some of us awards and accolades, but more importantly, they've afforded all of us (hopefully) decent and steady careers. Unlike your favorite home contractor, the major tools we use to do our work reside on the sides of our heads and should be maintained the way one would protect tools from rust and damage with proper training and usage of said tools. You should definitely have a normal life outside of work, filled with fun and excitement. However, your money makers should be protected at all costs and the investment in their longevity should always take priority as any damage to them will immediately affect your ability to do your job effectively, whether in the short term or long term. In conclusion, maintaining ear health should be based on a holistic approach, which may or may not include active ear training. However, it's important to consider our ears as much as we'd protect any other organ in our bodies that helps us through our day-to-day activities. Whether you're looking to enhance your hearing abilities or just maintain what you've got, paying close attention to our ear health is as sound a decision as any of us can make. Paying close attention to our ear health is as sound a decision as any of us can make.

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