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Age-related hearing loss mysteries

The real question about measurable age-related hearing loss and good audio work is this: how is it that many of the great engineers are still going great work well into the 60's and beyond?

Steve Addabbo is 66, Bob Ludwig is 72, Bob Power 65, Steve Berkowitz 58, Tony Visconti is 73, Jon Gordon is 60-something, Rupert Neve is 80... so many more.

I've assisted for some of these guys, and they can instantly recognize tiny little nits in a mix faster than almost all young engineers, including the long overdue growing ranks of female engineers. There is clearly a disconnect between the ability to recognize hearing test sine waves and the ability to hear deep into a mix, including the very low-level high-frequency harmonics that are so important.

If you made a recording that needed mastering, would you not use Bob Ludwig because of his age? Tracking and mixing is very nit-picky; mastering is hyper-nit-picky. It's all about the low-level tiny stuff. If age-related hearing loss barred an experienced engineer from mastering, Ludwig would have been out of the business ages ago. If Rupert couldn't hear how his gear handles that stuff, he would have had to retire *decades* ago.

In a related vein, orchestra conductors often do their best work well into their 80's. They also have to be able to hear the tiny stuff, and they do. If you doubt it, sit in on a rehearsal; it can be a real eye-opener.

My own guess is that our brains both compensate for physical hearing changes, and continue to learn from every performance or recording they pay attention to. I'd love to see someone research this.

"A man need merely light the filaments of his receiving set and the world's greatest artists will perform for him." Alfred N. Goldsmith, RCA, 1922

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