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Do human ears perceive less bass in the mornings?

edited June 7 in Off-topic

I make music on the train during my work commute every day, and over the past few years have detected and continually observed an interesting audio phenomenon.

When listening to the same projects in the morning (on the way to work) and around 5.30pm (on the way home) I can clearly detect a big difference in my ears' ability to hear the low frequencies in the track.

In the mornings it sounds like there are a few dB cut in the lower registers, and this seems to normalise throughout the day, so that I hear beautifully rich (if not bloated) bass after a full day's work.

Does anyone else have experience or knowledge of why this might be? Hopefully it's not an early indication of the onset of deafness.

Any thoughts?

Some details about me (in case you are wondering if it's all my own fault):

  • late 30s
  • I always take care of my hearing (avoiding excessive loudness)
  • I mainly use good quality IEM earphones
  • I have a relatively quiet office job

Comments

  • Maybe your sensitivity to higher freqencies diminishes during the day? London is quite noisy if I remember well...

  • @denx said:
    London is quite noisy if I remember well...

    You win this year’s prize for understatement!

  • Nice theory @denx - but I'm pretty sure this is not the case.

    I can definitely perceive less bass in the mornings, and the higher frequencies don't seem to change throughout the day.

    How do I know this? If I'm trying to mix and EQ a project I've noticed a tendency to boost the lower frequencies in the mornings, and lower them back down after work. I don't find I do this with mid-range or high frequencies so I'm pretty confident only the lower registers are being affected by this phenomenon.

  • @tk32 said:
    Nice theory @denx - but I'm pretty sure this is not the case.

    I can definitely perceive less bass in the mornings, and the higher frequencies don't seem to change throughout the day.

    How do I know this? If I'm trying to mix and EQ a project I've noticed a tendency to boost the lower frequencies in the mornings, and lower them back down after work. I don't find I do this with mid-range or high frequencies so I'm pretty confident only the lower registers are being affected by this phenomenon.

    It’s just a theory, of course. But you could check if you work at the same volume. If you also tend to turn it up, it could be that it’s your relative sensitvity to freqencies that changes.

    Personally I don’t experience what you describe, although my ears seem to need an hour or so to get up to speed after I get up. I do have a slight tinnitus around 16 mh that is worse in the mornings...

  • @denx - good point re: volume.

    I'll pay more attention to the levels i'm listening at and see if I have a tendency to increase overall volume later in the day (compared to the mornings)

  • Hearing is always a 2 part process:
    the objective one (frequencies your ears pick up) is complemented by an entirely subjective (and often subconscious) part.
    The latter is based on learning (or 'self-adjustment') to whatever you listen to.
    Overlong sessions with own tracks may easily drift into an acoustuc parallel universe, as most of us will have experienced at some pont in time.

    Regarding your specific bass experience the train tripping might play a role.
    Ears are not very sensitive to bass, but your body is... and your transportation emits a lot of such low frequency noise.
    So the brain compensates an imaginary 'too loud' low frequency spectrum, triggered by sensing the vibrating environment.

  • It could also be that your eardrum cannot move as freely in the mornings as it can in the evening. Bass frequencies are mostly the loudest and thus require the biggest deflection. There's a sophisticated network of tubes for air pressure regulation in your hearing (and by extension, respiratory) system, which might still be clogged in the morning and thus your eardrums cannot move freely.

    Just another theory from a hobby doctor (and hobby sequencer designer 😉😉😉), though.

  • The opposite would be...
    Is it easier to get annoyed by hi-frequency switched power-supplies when the surrounding sound levels drop?

    Maybe my ears are too sensitive but I can easily detect a power-supply in a room that makes high-pitched whining noises which some others can't even hear?!

    This is especially true for switched power-supplies powering USB hubs.
    I can easily 'hear' when the load increases or decreases and it can after prolonged exposure cause bad head-aches...

  • @Samu said:
    Maybe my ears are too sensitive but I can easily detect a power-supply in a room that makes high-pitched whining noises which some others can't even hear?!

    Yep, I hear that all the time too since the proliferation of SPSs. The problem is the cheap ones (i.e., nearly all of them) which use low (< 20 kHz) switching frequencies when under low load).

    For example, I can "hear" my SSDs because they draw more power when accessed and the PSU starts whining.

    As to "ears TOO sensitive" -- well, ears CANNOT be "too" sensitive. The more sensitive a sensory organ, the better it is working (obviously). :)

  • Do you smoke cigarettes and do it the same time before the sessions? I have noticed that nicotine enhances sensitivity to some sounds. Perhaps some meds could have same effect as well?

  • @SevenSystems said:

    For example, I can "hear" my SSDs because they draw more power when accessed and the PSU starts whining.

    Argghhhh those kind of things drive me nuts!

    I sometimes have the Akai LPK25 hooked to a usb-hub and it's quiet most of the time but as soon as one of them leds are active or blinking the psu powering the usb hub starts to whine...

    My other PSUs are fairly quiet or operate at way higher frequencies like the one for my LG monitor,Network Switches, Synology NAS, Apple PSU's etc. but I can still 'record' their whine using higher sampling frequencies...

    Once iOS13 drops I'll put some more load on the USB-Hub with flash-drives and stuff and see where the 'threshold' for the whining is since most USB-Hubs come with these 'cheap' power supplies anyway...
    (Even the PSU for the Korg Electribe 2 'whines' when the leds on the device are blinking).

    I won't probably hear those at all in a couple of years due to ear-fatigue :D

  • edited June 7

    @Samu you have to think positive -- see it as a gift, not an annoyance 😬 (even though it can be)... you can trust you have better hearing than 95% of people. But yeah, often for people with sensitive senses (does that make sense? 😂), it is difficult to filter out all the "clutter" from the input...

    In the meantime, I miss those REAL power supplies that still had BALLS 😉

    (OK, these "whine" at 50 Hz, but I find that rather more soothing than annoying...)

  • @ToMess said:
    Do you smoke cigarettes and do it the same time before the sessions? I have noticed that nicotine enhances sensitivity to some sounds. Perhaps some meds could have same effect as well?

    Nice idea, but no cigarettes, nicotine or meds are involved (unless you include the gloriously polluted London air quality)

  • edited June 7

    I can definitely SING at lower registers in the morning...probably a good thing you wouldn't be able to hear me.

  • @tk32 You said you're using IEMs. The bass response of these highly depends on how well they fit and sit in your ears. Probably the tiny hair in your ear canals stand to end because you get up too early? ;)
    You could try to apply a little bit of milky grease to where the IEMs touch the ear canal.

  • @Telefunky said:
    Hearing is always a 2 part process:
    the objective one (frequencies your ears pick up) is complemented by an entirely subjective (and often subconscious) part.
    The latter is based on learning (or 'self-adjustment') to whatever you listen to.
    Overlong sessions with own tracks may easily drift into an acoustuc parallel universe, as most of us will have experienced at some pont in time.

    Regarding your specific bass experience the train tripping might play a role.
    Ears are not very sensitive to bass, but your body is... and your transportation emits a lot of such low frequency noise.
    So the brain compensates an imaginary 'too loud' low frequency spectrum, triggered by sensing the vibrating environment.

    This and or this

    @rs2000 said:
    @tk32 You said you're using IEMs. The bass response of these highly depends on how well they fit and sit in your ears. Probably the tiny hair in your ear canals stand to end because you get up too early? ;)
    You could try to apply a little bit of milky grease to where the IEMs touch the ear canal.

  • edited June 8

    @rs2000 you could be onto something here.

    It's highly possible that I am getting a different kind of seal in the mornings with my IEMs, especially after I shower and clean my ears. In fact, I usually q-tip my ears after washing to avoid excess water damaging my earphones.

    Without meaning to be gross, there is probably more ear wax in my ear canals at the end of the work day compared to the morning, and this is probably affecting my ability to get a good seal.

    By the way... I could be wrong, but I don't think the problem is caused by morning erections of the ear hairs :D

  • @tk32 said:
    @rs2000 you could be onto something here.

    It's highly possible that I am getting a different kind of seal in the mornings with my IEMs, especially after I shower and clean my ears. In fact, I usually q-tip my ears after washing to avoid excess water damaging my earphones.

    Without meaning to be gross, there is probably more ear wax in my ear canals at the end of the work day compared to the morning, and this is probably affecting my ability to get a good seal.

    By the way... I could be wrong, but I don't think the problem is caused by morning erections of the ear hairs :D

    Worth a try, don't you think? :D

  • @tk32 said:
    I make music on the train during my work commute every day, and over the past few years have detected and continually observed an interesting audio phenomenon.

    When listening to the same projects in the morning (on the way to work) and around 5.30pm (on the way home) I can clearly detect a big difference in my ears' ability to hear the low frequencies in the track.

    In the mornings it sounds like there are a few dB cut in the lower registers, and this seems to normalise throughout the day, so that I hear beautifully rich (if not bloated) bass after a full day's work.

    Does anyone else have experience or knowledge of why this might be? Hopefully it's not an early indication of the onset of deafness.

    Any thoughts?

    Some details about me (in case you are wondering if it's all my own fault):

    • late 30s
    • I always take care of my hearing (avoiding excessive loudness)
    • I mainly use good quality IEM earphones
    • I have a relatively quiet office job

    Perhaps recalibrate your workflow.

    I actually keep my iOS abnormally low so I can jack hardware up and vice versa.

    If I start to hot in a session it ruins whole session.

    I start main "knobs" low and edge up each of my 2 daily studio sessions.

    My ears are fresher for my 415 am session for sure than my night one.

  • The solution is to mixdown and master at either the evening or morning, as per the desired result, and state on the released media which time of day it is optimised for listening to.

  • @tk32 said:
    @rs2000 you could be onto something here.

    It's highly possible that I am getting a different kind of seal in the mornings with my IEMs, especially after I shower and clean my ears. In fact, I usually q-tip my ears after washing to avoid excess water damaging my earphones.

    Without meaning to be gross, there is probably more ear wax in my ear canals at the end of the work day compared to the morning, and this is probably affecting my ability to get a good seal.

    By the way... I could be wrong, but I don't think the problem is caused by morning erections of the ear hairs :D

    Don't use Q-tips!

    You're making music on the tube. That's the answer :)

  • and dont fool yourself about frequencies below about 80-90Hz. Those are not perceivable by any headphone or IEM but with your solar plexus.
    It is hilarious that manufactures state that they go down to 20Hz or even 5Hz sometimes.

  • UPDATE:
    I just wanted to give a quick update to this thread, and say that further testing (aided by @rs2000's advice) does seem to confirm that it was probably my IEM seal after all (Phew!)

    It turns out a little earwax makes a great bass seal much easier to achieve with an iem, and that thoroughly cleaning out your ears after a shower/bath may not be as wise as originally thought.

    Thanks @rs2000 (and everyone else for their helpful suggestions)


    Conclusion: Cerumen is your friend. Just don't eat it.

  • @tk32 said:
    UPDATE:
    I just wanted to give a quick update to this thread, and say that further testing (aided by @rs2000's advice) does seem to confirm that it was probably my IEM seal after all (Phew!)

    It turns out a little earwax makes a great bass seal much easier to achieve with an iem, and that thoroughly cleaning out your ears after a shower/bath may not be as wise as originally thought.

    Thanks @rs2000 (and everyone else for their helpful suggestions)


    Conclusion: Cerumen is your friend. Just don't eat it.

    Cool. Thanks for the feedback.
    BTW, I wouldn't use Q-tips at all, the risk of pushing your EW further into the ear is too high. Just slightly tipping into the ear tunnel with a paper towel after shower should do it, the ear will dry soon.

  • Regarding EW. My right ear is pretty 'clogged' at the moment so high frequencies get attenuated like crazy and skew the stereo-image...

  • @Samu said:
    Regarding EW. My right ear is pretty 'clogged' at the moment so high frequencies get attenuated like crazy and skew the stereo-image...

    I'd rinse it with warm water until it's free. Needs patience because that can take some time.
    I wouldn't apply too much pressure to be safe.

  • @rs2000 said:

    @Samu said:
    Regarding EW. My right ear is pretty 'clogged' at the moment so high frequencies get attenuated like crazy and skew the stereo-image...

    I'd rinse it with warm water until it's free. Needs patience because that can take some time.

    Already doing that, it's still a bit clogged but better...
    I do avoid 'cotton tips' as my ears are super sensitive...
    ...it feels like using sand-paper anyways so I do avoid them.

  • @Samu said:

    @rs2000 said:

    @Samu said:
    Regarding EW. My right ear is pretty 'clogged' at the moment so high frequencies get attenuated like crazy and skew the stereo-image...

    I'd rinse it with warm water until it's free. Needs patience because that can take some time.

    Already doing that, it's still a bit clogged but better...
    I do avoid 'cotton tips' as my ears are super sensitive...
    ...it feels like using sand-paper anyways so I do avoid them.

    These cotton tips can be good for all kinds of cleaning purposes - except for human ears!
    There should really be a warning on the box.

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