Let’s say, you’re 40+ years old and you’re mixing a track by a young band. The target audience’s mean age is 18.
Your hearing ability is obviously weaker than that of the audience. If your ears are good, with 40+ years of age you’ll typically hear 30 Hz - 15 kHz with slightly and progressively dampened frequencies above 5 kHz. The audience will typically hear 30Hz - 18 kHz with no dampening of high frequencies.
So what you hear in the mix is not what they will hear. You’ll probably end up adding too much high frequencies for their taste. Would you somehow try to compensate for this?
For an engineer or producer who’s been actively working over the years, I would say that there is a natural, unconscious adaptation or compensation which takes place over time. This ‘evolution’ will continue up until actual, hearing loss becomes too severe - then I’d think it’s time to retire.
Even though your hearing may change over time, your consciousness can still relate to it. Think of mixing on different monitors. Each monitor will have its own response and fidelity. If you listen to your reference material through them, you will understand their response then how it relates to how you own mixing when you use them to mix, you will be able to recreate a similar curve. Replace the monitors with your ears now and the same applies. Replace your ears with the end-listener’s ears.
Concerning the high frequencies dampening part, I fully agree with your guys. The frequencies become less prominent, but one can still hear them and there was also enough time to get used to the dampening. Besides, reference listening to state of the art mixes would also lead to a good result cause the dampening would be the same for both the reference track and the own mix.
But the cut-off frequency is a different story. If you can’t hear above 15 kHz, there’s no way for you to tell what the high end > 15 kHz is doing. For example, would you accidentally boost some sharp EQ gain by 12 dB above 16 kHz, you wouldn’t notice a difference. The 18 years old listener would still perceive an annoying hiss. This is extreme, of course. But it tells me that it would probably be a good idea to let young ears judge the high end before sending the mix away, or alternatively to cut away everything above one’s own cut-off frequency (as long as this one isn’t too low, but when that becomes the case, then one should really retire ).
Again, assuming we’re talking strictly natural hearing deterioration with age, and not due to illness or accident (which would be a much more abrupt change), I think the entire development will be an unconscious adaptation. It’s all about translation, and as long as that translation is happening, no problem. Eventually colleagues and people in general are going to indicate that there’s a problem with your mixes, and you begin to realize that the translation is no longer happening, and time to think of handing the reigns to someone else (younger).
Are you thinking of retiring or are you trying to get rid of your boss?
Of course it could all get screwed up if you were for example a mixing god, and people thought that the hiss was a new sound because the mix god lets it through, and suddenly we have a new norm…
Most 18 year olds have never heard vinyl on a good stereo (and never will). Many of them have never heard a CD through a premium sound system capable of amplifying and projecting the music as the mix engineer heard it. Their point-of-reference is, sadly too often, a crappy laptop speaker or iPod type MP3 device. Thus, they are not getting accurate source material anywhere near the theoretical ideal 20hz to 20kHz range of hearing and music reproduction. They have absolutely no experience, or frame of reference, for what constitutes “good sound” or a “good mix”.
There are spectral tools to get a visual idea of upper frequencies that might be useful.
I don’t have a problem with rolling off everything above about 12k to 15k. Those young 18 year old kids are going to become old, deaf, and hearing impaired by … oh … say age 25 … so mixing in anticipation of that provides better value to them.
where hearing lose of the high frequencies is concerned ,we now live in an age of visual aids for audio so if you have a good reference collection you know what you higher end frequencies should look like with a decent frequency analyser and you will be surprised at what you can accomplish .
Once you know how bad your hearing lose is , mild , moderate you can compensate in so many different ways that it doe’s not become an issue really , it used to worry me but now I know how much my hearing has dropped at 4khz I can easily set the monitors to boost the high frequencies with out affecting the mix .
Im glad this topic came up as you do feel as thou in the music industry when you hearing starts to fail it’s the end of the world …BUT it’s not you just adapt ,after all we are humans and that’s what we do best .