Hearing vs. Listening
and the iPhone Hearing Test


My friend Steve and I often discuss the difference between hearing and listening. There are some simple facts to face that as we get older our hearing is going to die. In addition to natural causes of aural death, there are other ways we inflict a slow suicide upon our hearing: standing by a drummers cymbal, iPod earbuds, unprotected concert going. These are our aural vices, and we pay a price for them. Does the damage we do to our hearing really matter for those of us who listen to music for a living? 

The first place to turn may be someone like Andy Wallace,
who at 62 years of age is still mixing huge and great sounding records.
Between sitting in front of speakers all day for 30+ years, and
physical age he cannot be in tip-top hearing, yet you listen to one of
his mixes and you would never know the difference.

I even know one producer that I can not out by name, that is fully deaf
in one ear yet still booked 5 days a week for upwards of $500 a day! If
this is the case, why is a 99 cent iPhone app causing audio professionals around the world to shake in their shoes? Audiometry
is an app for the iPhone that will help test your hearing (please do not
do this using ear buds), though from what I have seen and heard around
my circles of knowledge, for many their ignorance is their bliss. Now
obviously, we all want our hearing to be as good as it possibly can for
our line of work, however small amounts of damage do not hinder your
listening ability half as much as not trying hard, and learning the
language of how to manipulate what comes through the speakers. It is
about listening and the decisions you make from the way you hear
things, not what you’re hearing actually looks like on a graph.

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.

  • Gene Roban

    the greatest sound engineers in history judged their own work using a monitor, generally an Altec -Lansing in most recording studios, but the final critical evaluation was through a 6 to 8 inch speaker in a closed box, similar to a car radio speaker  or portable record player of the time- if it didn’t “read” through that junk equipment, adjustments were made until it did. Norman Granz did that for Blue Note, Buck Owens did it for all of his recordings, Chet Atkins did it for RCA.  The single best example I’m aware of is the anonymous engineer at Trinity Records who did the engineering on Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk” listening to that recording is to hear monaural at it’s best.