Have you ever sung in public, only to have your family ask you to never do that again? Or, have you played the piano and your sour notes had people scrambling for an exit?
If so, you may be tone-deaf. Don’t worry too much if you are. It’s not a problem with your hearing; it’s just that your brain isn’t processing clear differences between the highness and lowness of sounds, which most people can hear.
Pitches are the distinct sounds that make it easy for most people to tell the difference between a good singer and a bad singer. Pitches also make the sound of specific notes, like on a piano keyboard, distinct from one another. So, when you hit a C-sharp instead of an E-flat, you know it.
Unless you’re one of the estimated 2% to 5% of people who can’t tell the difference. They’re tone-deaf. If you think you might be, or if you want to prove to your family once and for all that you have a beautiful singing voice, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has a fun test to determine if you’re tone-deaf or not.
NIDCD’s Distorted Tunes test determines if you’re tone-deaf. The test has been around for half a century, and you may have taken it before. But now it’s online.
There are clips from 26 songs, some with a note or two altered. The test itself takes about 10 minutes. NIDCD recommends being in a quiet room to take it, and don’t wear headphones or earbuds.
Listen to each one, and answer a multiple choice question. It’s easy, and fun.
Whatever the results, don’t be alarmed. Tone-deafness usually isn’t a sign of a hearing problem. It’s a condition that affects the way your brain processes sounds. It’s not well understood, but scientific tests with twins over the decades suggest it’s most likely not caused by your environment.
If you’re tone-deaf, it’s likely it’s being passed down from one generation to another in your family. So, the next time your audience runs for cover, blame your tone-deafness on your grandparents.
On the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.