Aggrivated tinnitus from speakers?


I'm new to the forum and was looking for some advice. I recently put together a system comprised of a McIntosh MA6900 + a pair of KEF R7s.

I've always had hearing sensitive to high frequencies, and have a very high frequency tinnitus at 18,000k. That's why I went with the Mac, as everyone talks about how smooth and musical it is. When I was shopping for speakers, I was doing a lot of research but then the KEF R7's went on crazy sale and I was able to pick up a pair for under 2k. It seemed like too much of a deal to pass up, especially with all of the glowing reviews, but maybe that was a mistake on my part...

I'm noticing when I listen to the system, my tinnitus activates at a lower frequency for several hours afterwards. I notice this most on FLAC / MQA - quality tracks on Tidal (via WIIM w/ integrated DAC, at very reasonable volumes - <85db ) It seems to happen less when I listen to vinyl or CD-Quality tracks, but it still happens.

It's driving me crazy and I'm so disappointed as I thought this was going to be my ultimate setup and I dropped a lot of $. The Mac has just been to an auth service center for new lamps and was bench tested and given a perfect bill of health after a small bias adjustment, so I don't think it's the problem.

I decided to use some headphones to see if I experienced the same thing... Senn. HD650's let me listen for long periods without problems. HD660S2s seem to give me maybe a little sensitivity after awhile, but the sensitivity I get from the KEF's is totally different.

I realize I should have demoed the speakers, but I just jumped on the deal - partially on their reputation and also because their narrow, tall size was ideal for the room layout.

Any advice on how to get to the bottom of this? Do I need to test different speakers or do I need to treat the room? I'd hate to give up the Master level recordings because I mentally swim in the detail and love it. I just hate the thought of not being able to enjoy the system properly, but I'm not sure where to start on making  it work for me.




It's not about the freq. I have a pair of NHT 2.5 towers as my daily drivers.

Last week I fired up my Velodyne sub and began positioning & EQ'ing. Youch! My tinnitus lit up to a degree I've not experienced in a long time. 

Eventually we came to an agreement. I suspect inaudible SPL issues and interference patterns because the 2.5's go well into the Velodyne's range.

Science/medicine is making progress with hearing issues. Last week I found a white paper discussing tinnitus and how conventional hearing testing doesn't identify associated nerve damage. 

I have more noticeable tinnitus in my left ear vs the right and any bright sounding system will cause me to turn down the volume if my system isn't set right. I recently moved to a new home and just finally got around to using the Audyssey software on my Marantz receiver to "correct" the speakers to my listening space. A vast improvement. I tend to EQ my treble flat and bump the midrange a bit and I never listen to music at high volume for extended periods. Typically I might crank it for a particular song but then dial it back down.

Your setup sounds like it is too heavy on the treble end and the brightness is causing you issues. I would suggest listening to music w/ flat/neutral EQ settings for a while as you address room treatment. Then make adjustments after that. Not sure that you need to run out and start equipment swapping if you haven't fixed the room first and made adjustments to what you have on hand. 

I had a similar experience last year out on the astronomy field. This is a very quit place, but both my telescopes emit a high frequency sound that many can't even hear. I set the telescopes up closer than normal resulting in spending several overnights within the range where these high frequency whines could be clearly heard. It took a week or so for my tinnitus to return to previous levels. 

What does this mean? I'm trying to convey that in my experience it is not the volume of the sound, but rather the frequency and exposure time. Based on my experience I suggest a solution that involves truncating the high frequencies as a test. That could be your EQ or test driving a set a speakers that are less bright.

60 years old here.

Long time Tinnitus sufferer.  However, I can say that I’ve had it for so long that most of the time I “tune it out”………….until I see something like this post topic, OR someone mentions it, then it starts ringing like crazy again until I forget about it.

I can’t say that my music system affects it one way or the other though.  I’ve actually never heard anyone mention this until seeing the topic.

Merry Christmas, from Tomball, Texas


I’m 59 yo and have had tinnitus for 30 years. I’m listening at 85dB peaks 10 feet from my speakers, avg is more like 70dB which is very satisfying and far too loud to talk over if we have company. This is a very safe zone.

I just had an audiogram which confirmed no changes in the past 15 months. However I "feel" like my tinnitus is louder sometimes, and/or a different frequency, sometimes pulsing but just one one side.

I’ve learned to live with it.

As far as I know, there is no way to measure tinnitus so not sure how you came up with 18khz? And audiometers only measure to 8khz anyway.

Anyway, I built my system around my attenuated range of 500hz-4khz. Good midrange from my Harbeth 40.3 XDs and smooth highs. Details in my profile. The key is rich, full, smooth sound, at very safe levels.

Definitely try and warm up your system as others have suggested. I had more issues with harshness on the digital side than analogue initially, but that problem is solved now.

Know that your ears will get over excited and that may also mean increased or variable tinnitus tones, hopefully temporarily, but as long as you are careful with SPLs, you should not be concerned about worsening hearing loss - other than age related.

Hearing aids won’t solve the problem. They may make tinnitus less prominent by amplifying certain frequencies, and some have white noise but they are often oversold for tinnitus.

Lastly, I asked my audiologist about hearing aids and music, and my fear that they will poorly amplify what my speakers put out, and she said some have a music mode that can help PLUS she can drill tiny holes in the membrane that allow more external / unamplified sound through. Not sure I’m ready to drop $6K on that experiment just yet.