How to Keep Your Audio Monitoring Equipment in Good Condition

I can only apologise in advance, but this blog won’t be pretty and I hope it doesn’t leave with you some yucky mental images.

But here goes...

I understand the importance of looking after my hearing. After-all my livelihood depends upon it. I have a hearing test every two years (the recommended time between such tests) and I have custom made ear-plugs* with a variety of plug-in attenuators.

IMG 1402

 They are tax deductable by the way...

I am careful with my hearing at gigs and when wearing headphones, yet my audiologist tells me I still have some hearing damage – a combination of age (listening at stupid levels when I was younger) and age (I’m getting older and a reduction in hearing happens to us all).

Recently my left ear has been giving me trouble. It felt like I constantly had water in it. You know, when you’ve been swimming and your ear canals get pool water in them? Like that. Except I didn’t get that relief when you hear a pop, feel the water running out and hearing clarity is restored. At night it was worse, lying on my left all I could hear was “pop”, “pop”. Just stick a finger in your ear then pull it out quickly to hear what I mean. It kept me awake.

My Mother, like a great many people of her age, delights in telling me her various ailments and her subsequent visits to the Quack. (Will we all do the same when we go past the 3 score and 10? Who knows?) One procedure she does enthuse about is having her ears syringed. So, with that in mind, I booked an appointment for such at the health centre. Before visiting I was told to dribble drops of olive oil in my ears to ease up the extraction of anything in there. I duly did this, using blended olive oil by the way, not the expensive cold-pressed virgin stuff in a fancy bottle, and 10 days later I presented myself for irrigation.

Olive Oil

“Your right ear is clear” said the nurse” But your left is blocked.”

“Well that’s good” I thought. At least I’m not imagining it.

She then proceeded to stick this tube thing into my ear and pump warm water in. It sounded like water going down a plughole and, although a little damp, wasn’t that unpleasant.

When you think about it, it’s pretty disgusting what comes out of the human body sometimes, and all power to the medical staff who have to deal with it, because, after a couple of goes, she presented me with a lump of brown gunk about the size of a pea. Yuk!

But the difference in my hearing was immediate. In fact for about 15 minutes my hearing was shifted “stereo left” i.e. when I looked at the nurse speaking her voice appeared to be in line with my left eye and not in the centre. Everything sounded abnormally bright on the left too. I can only think my brain had turned the gain and eq. up on this ear to compensate for the hf roll-off the gunk was creating.

I was then presented with a list of “to dos” pertaining to ear wax build-up. Interestingly the most salient one is that washing ear can lead to an increase in wax build-up as the skin compensates for oil loss. I do a lot of swimming and this could have been the cause in my case.

Prevention is basically dribbling more of the extra-virgin into my ears about once a week and booking an annual check-up.

I’ll spare you pictures of the yucky gunk as I didn’t take any because the nurse would have thought she had some kind of weirdo in her consulting room, but I urge you to consider getting your monitoring gear checked out too.

As professional audio engineers (in fact anyone who works with audio), we all understand that monitoring of the signal is fundamental.

You may spend a fortune on speakers, amps and the listening environment but is means diddlely-squat if those two things, one on either side of your head are not working to the best of their ability.

Sorry to leave you with any mental images of brown, pea-sized, gunk but I cannot be held responsible for your vivid imagination.

*I went to Spec Savers for mine, but other outlets are available.

Iain Betson