Rosin dust bothers eyes and other sensitivities?

Tina Raimondi said: Jan 20, 2013
Tina Raimondi
Suzuki Association Member
Boca Raton, FL
26 posts

I have a student, 10 years old, who says rosin bothers his eyes. He is already using the Clarity hypoallergenic rosin. He blinks a lot and closes his eyes when he plays. He also cannot be in the room when his bow is being rosined (by parent) due to the sound.

He had quite a few sensitivities—the above, plus he barely plays above a whisper and won’t use much bow (he says the more bow he uses the more dust gets in his eyes). But, I suspect it’s also a sound sensitivity. We had to avoid learning pieces for a while that used D and G strings, because he said the low register hurt his ears.

I am curious if anyone has dealt with these sensitivities before, and if there’s a better rosin than the Clarity for those allergic?

This child transferred to me about two years ago, and he is starting Happy Farmer after playing violin for about 5 years. Any thoughts are appreciated.

Martha Morehart said: Jan 21, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
3 posts

Kudos to this student, parent and teacher soldiering bravely onward! However, I think the child should switch to a different instrument today. We Suzuki teachers bring joy, beauty and enrichment to children’s lives. Why must the poor guy suffer daily due to choice of instrument?

Every instrument studied enriches the life of the student. His work on the violin is not wasted even if he stops playing violin. Find out what works with his body, and let the fellow out of his misery. His musicianship may well sky-rocket.

Martha Morehart

Tina Raimondi said: Jan 22, 2013
Tina Raimondi
Suzuki Association Member
Boca Raton, FL
26 posts

Well, this was not quite the response I was expecting. Yes, the student and parent are bravely soldiering on, and although I haven’t been his teacher for the whole time he’s been playing, I suppose I am, too. Just this past summer his family took him to their first Suzuki Institute, and they go to the wonderful local Suzuki workshops. Still, he does seem miserable, not from actually playing the violin, but from the volume he knows he’s supposed to create and from the rosin. He loves to learn new pieces by ear, is doing well in sight reading, and seems to enjoy playing for the most part EXCEPT when I ask him to play louder.

I will have to ponder this some more. I am just curious if anyone has had a student with similar sensitivities to sound?

Kiyoko said: Jan 25, 2013
 95 posts

I had rosin allergies when I was a kid too. I suffered through it until I got into higher quality rosins when I got older. (There were no hypoallergenic rosins back then.) If your student wants to play the violin, perhaps discuss with the parents if they are willing to try some other rosins. I haven’t kept up with rosins, but you might call Shar Music and talk to a few people about other good rosins to try with allergies. I would be surprised if they didn’t have some recommendations. If he is ever in the area, I think they will let you come into the store and try any rosin in stock.

Also, whoever is rosining the bow for the student might shake off the bow, run a clean light rag over the bow hair afterwards, and play off the bow a little (away from your student, in a separate room if necessary.) I used to carry a kerchief for that reason in my case. The rosin dust from the first moments of play are the worst so I’d do that outside during the summer when I could. I don’t know if a HEPA filter in the room might help too, we didn’t have them back then, but they help me now with my other allergies. I remember trying to go as long as I could before rosining my bow… I know, that sounds terrible but I got really good at pulling tone out of a slippery bow.

Another more sensitive topic might be to discuss allergy medicine or allergy shots that might help the student. I don’t know exactly what component I was allergic to in the rosin but I did have “dust” allergies. Allergy shots and medicine did help me some but not completely. I was originally sensitive enough that I would react if anyone who smoked had been in the room in the past 24 hours. (They didn’t have to smoke in the room.)

I’m not an expert in sound, but perhaps a child audiologist might help. There are people who are hypersensitive to certain frequencies and it might be dramatically affecting your student in other parts of life. I can imagine it would be difficult to generally socilaize among other things. Anyways, an audiogram might help figure out if he has an anomaly in hearing that might be dealt with if identified. There are treatments that could help including something like a reverse hearing aid. In the interim, he could always try out an ear plug in the left ear when playing louder until he gets evaluated and treated.

Good Luck! I hope you find a way to help your student continue to play if he can comfortably do so.

Kiyoko said: Jan 26, 2013
 95 posts

I ran across this thread that talks about Geipel rosin from Germany being a better choice than Clarity for dust sensitivities and using cork to take excess rosin off the bow hairs. Another hypoallergenic rosin mentioned is Jade rosin, made in France. Also it recommends getting the bow hairs cleaned to get rid of any bothersome rosin before applying the more hypoallergenic rosin. I would still call a place like Shar Music to ask as there may be other varieties that maybe good to try. I’m sure the student can tell you fairly quickly by just a small sample of the rosin, if it is better.

There are people who do try to clean the bow hairs on their own, but it sounds tricky to do right without damaging the bow so it might be better to get a professional to do it or just get the bow haired if it is an expensive bow. Otherwise I would consult a reputable shop for a player based cleaning method.

I hope this helps.

Steph Tim said: Jun 11, 2013
 1 posts

I agree—i think the parents should let the child quit—if they child genuinely enjoys the violin (sounds like he doesn’t), then GET A MASK. I noticed right away that i am sensitive to rosin dust. It really bothers my chest and tickles my nose—just a tiny amt bothers me. So, i really think the child should find another instrument—he should switch to something that he can tolerate and enjoy. It’s just WRONG to make a child w/such sensitivities continue like that. A mask might help the poor child—sheeeesh. Let him play the piano or other instrument!

Laura McDermott said: Aug 19, 2013
Laura McDermott
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Aurora, CO
15 posts

Probably too late but….Jade rosin. I had a student who was allergic to the rosin dust. We tried several supposed hypoallergenic rosins. Jade is not marketed as hypoallergenic, but it was the one that worked for her.

Is the student in therapy or something regarding the sound sensitivities? If not, I would ask the parents to consult a professional in that area. I have had students complain about the sound of the e string, but not the D and G.

Laura McDermott

Sue Hunt said: Aug 20, 2013
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

As a child, I was very sensitive to sound. Loud noises were exquisitely painful to my ears. Being very skinny, I also felt sound vibration throughout my body. Bone and muscle are much more conductive than fat. This made certain sounds unbearable. From personal experience, I know that it gets vastly better with age. Even so, I still find it difficult to stay in a room, with a group of violin teacher trainees, doing tonalization exercises.

As the violin is held between the jaw and collar bone, the vibrations are easily transmitted into the head through the bones. For a few children, this is not a pleasant experience.

If you decide to look for another instrument for a child, it is really worth checking out the physical, mental and psychological demands that playing the instrument requires. See The Right Instrument for Your Child by Atarah Ben-Tovim MBE & Douglas Boyd

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