Robert Estrin - piano expert

Can Playing the Piano Cause Hearing Loss?

A very interesting topic for anyone playing the piano

In this video, Robert talks about the possibility of losing hearing capacity by playing the piano. Can that really happen?

Released on July 31, 2019

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi. Robert Estrin here with with a viewer question, and that is can playing the piano cause hearing damage? I'm sure you must be concerned about that because you know you got one pair of ears for your whole life and you don't want to blow it. Right? Well we all know that rock and roll musicians, playing drums and things, obviously this can do damage to your ears. You might not know that symphony orchestra players suffer from ear damage. It's a hazard of the trade. Just think what it's like when you have 60, 70 musicians on stage and you might have timpani behind you or trumpets blaring in your ear. It's a real problem. And to mitigate that there are baffles and plexiglass, because you have to see the conductor. It's a real problem.

Well, what about piano? Certainly piano is safe, isn't it?

Well not necessarily. Whenever we help people choosing pianos, one of the first things we always ask is where is the piano going? Because it's important to match the piano with the room. For example, this is a seven foot semi-concert grand. Now it's glorious to play. And of course this room is enormous with 20 foot ceilings. But what if you put this piano into a bedroom? Would it be okay there?

Well possibly. If you had really thick carpeting, thick drapes, well, sofas, beds, any material that absorbs sound, it actually might be fine. Even a larger room now with all solid walls and linoleum floor, low ceiling, even a baby grand can be a problem.

Also, the voicing of your piano makes a big difference. Pianos get brighter the more you play them. And some pianos naturally are brighter, like Asian pianos tend to be brighter than American pianos, for example. So if you had a really bright Asian piano in a room where the acoustics were not appropriate, you could indeed do ear damage.

So a lot of it is common sense. One telltale sign that you've gone too far is if you ever get ringing in your ears, that is a very strong danger sign and you should back off for a few days, because if you get that in your ears on any kind of regular basis, you can develop tinnitus and have a constant ringing in your ear that never goes away. So be careful how you place your piano, what room, how your piano's voiced, whether it's open or closed and be sensitive to the sound.

More than that, I've had the experience years ago when I went to school and practiced in these little tiny cubicles, and you'd think you that you were really powerful. Then you go into a concert hall and even though you were playing a nine foot piano, in such a huge space you'd feel like you weren't making any sound at all. And it was unnerving. Because in the practice room you could, you could bang out anything and overblow the piano. Because first of all they were beaten to death. They got too bright from playing them too much. So it was easy to play loud and fast without any trouble articulating everything. So 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 and we appreciate those questions coming in. Run again here at You're on my piano store. Robert Estrin saying goodbye for now.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Bill McClellan * VSM MEMBER * on July 31, 2019 @9:06 am PST

Many thanks for your great videos!

Could you talk about muscle memory and sight reading.

Thank you
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on July 31, 2019 @9:16 am PST
Glad you like them Bill!

Robert made a two-part series on sight-reading a while ago, here they are:

And if you click the link below, you'll find several videos about "memorization":

I hope that helps!

All the best,
Robert - host, on August 1, 2019 @2:33 pm PST
Muscle memory and sight reading have very little to do with one another. Muscle memory, or tactile memory comes about when you have a piece memorized and have played it so many times that your fingers can play the music without even thinking about it. This isn't a type of memory you can depend upon. Here is an article and video which delves deeper into this subject:

Sight reading by its very nature is playing music you have never seen before. Therefore, there can be no muscle memory developed except in cases where there are similar passages to other music you have learned.
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