Sound Engineer
My ear has a slight hiss

by Matias Monteagudo

Hi, I am a musician and sound engineer since I was 18 years old (now 37). I am "all ears", literally, and I have been fully aware of my audio perception since I have memory.

I always noticed a small high pitched "hiss" sound on both my ears, only really noticeable when I'm in a totally silent room.

Certainly nothing that bothered me at all, in fact I consider it interesting, how even the most sophisticated hearing device (the biological ear) can still have small signal aberrations.

Now, I'm curious to know if everybody that has a normal ear can still hear this hiss or is just my case and I should take more care about my ears.

I almost never listen to music too loud, when I work in music I always end turning the volume down and down as I'm very sensitive to loudness, not that it's a problem, I just find the ear gets tired after a while I guess due to the constant stimulation of the same hair cells (for example a song, always have the same frequencies and listening over and over could cause this, no?)

I guess could also hurt a bit due to constant stimulation of the muscle tympani, same as if you do exercise using the same muscles over and over.

To make it short, the more I read about the ear the more amazed I am, it's just incredible how evolution gave us (animals) such a refined sensor.

Lastly, I tend to produce a lot of wax, I think more than the average people, I guess it's because I use my ears more?

Best Regards,


Reply from Sarinne:

It's always interesting to hear different people's experiences with their hearing, especially from someone who uses his ears professionally!

The small hiss that you hear in your ears (when it's quiet enough) is the normal sound of your auditory circuitry working. Most people don't notice it under ordinary circumstances, but any hearing person who enters an anechoic chamber, where there are no other sounds to compete, will hear it. George Michelsen Foy, author of Zero Decibels, likens it to the hum of a sound system amplifier.

People vary in the amount of earwax they produce. It is affected by your genes, the amount of fat in your diet, and your stress level. It will also increase as you age.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that the ear is an amazing sensory organ!

— Sarinne from Noise Help

Comments for Sound Engineer
My ear has a slight hiss

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Dec 19, 2014
exactly same
by: priyank

Hi matias,
i have exactly the same "type" of ear that you have described,, a slight "hiss" alwaays in my ear when its really quiet and i do produce a lot of wax as well. the sound is not annoying but certainly drwas attention when iys really quiet around..not sure if this is something i should really worried about. have nt seen a doctor about all this.

Feb 02, 2019
Retired Audio Engineer-Live Environment
by: Jeffrey A

Hello all,

Loved the comment from Matias as a professional engineer. I too was an audio engineer working in a live audio environment (hard rock) for more than 20 years, from 1980 to about 2001.

I was always exceedingly careful with my hearing-partly due to self-preservation and partly due to the fact that my ears were insured for over $1 million for quite a bit of that timespan and were regularly tested against a benchmark. I was known as 'that darned engineer that uses earplugs!', but I was good enough to get away with it. During my time in the industry, I never had any hearing loss or problems with tinnitus. I then spent another 10 years in commercial woodshops and THAT was where my I believe my hearing was destroyed!

Fast forward to the year I turned 55, 15 years after retiring from professional audio I developed the most incredible case of tinnitus my doctor has seen. I use music during the day, sometimes soft jazz is enough, sometimes I need loud dubsteb to distract me. AT night I need white noise or I can't sleep.

The only saving grace I can see is that my tinnitus sounds like peepers (tree frogs) that are common here in NY state. I happen to love that sound, a harbinger of springtime, so it's not completely maddening!

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