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Quick Tip: Mixing with Hearing Loss

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Its safe to say that most of us do not have perfect hearing. Life is full of loud noises, concerts, and sometimes just bad luck that will damage our hearing. Whether your ears were naturally born with hearing loss or you hurt them in an accident, not all is lost! In this tutorial I will show you a few basic ways that you can mix to the fullest even when your ears do not cooperate.


Panning

Often times those with hearing loss as the result of an accident have lost hearing in only one ear. For those who suffer hearing loose in only one ear try flipping around your stereo field to hear the other side; just switch around your master pan. If you are wearing headphones then just turn around the headphones to the other ear. You will still need to keep and eye on the meters as a visual cue to make sure you are not clipping and such but make your best guess then flip the pan around to check yourself.


Use Metering

It is common for engineers to use various plugins to check different aspects of their mix such as phase, levels, etc. and these can be very beneficial to those with hearing loss. If you are mixing a hard rock track that to you sounds somewhat similar to a popular hard rock track then use that popular track as a reference. By playing that track through your metering plugins you can get a visual representation of what is considered "good" by popular music. Here are a list of plugins you should consider and why.

  • Frequency Analyzer: These plugins will give you a graphic representation of how loud or soft the different frequency bands are. In this way you can see if your bass is too loud, treble is too soft, etc. Just be careful with your reference material is more than likely been enhanced through mastering and you do not want to be mastering in the mixing process!
  • Phase Meter: The benefit for a phase analyzer is that you can get a good representation of the stereo field and what things will be knocked out of phase if summed to mono. This will also be a good way to check your stereo imaging if you are worried that one side of your mix might be left or right heavy you're your hearing loss.
  • Peak/RMS Meter: This is not just a normal peak meter you see on mix track. The benefit you have to a plugin that shows both RMS and peak volume is that you can keep track of your overall volume (RMS) and the peaks that cut through. The RMS will be very important in determining the perceived loudness of the track. Again be careful with your reference material as if could have been severely compressed from mastering.


Mix In Mono

Usually the greatest issue engineers will face when mixing with a hearing issue is the stereo field; so the best way to compensate is to mix with no stereo field! If you can make a killer mix in mono then when you pan it out to the sides it will open up your mix and give you a really good result. Even if you do not have hearing loss this is still a good idea try. The other benefit you have to mixing in mono is that if the stereo version of the track ever gets summed to mono you will not have worry about phase cancellations! (at least not as much anyways).


Summary

That about sums it up in how to quickly get mixing with hearing loss. Remember, no ones ears are going to be perfect forever and a lot of these tricks are good practice for any engineer regardless of how good their hearing is. Hope you enjoyed these quick tips! See you next time!

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