tin ear(redirected from a tin ear)
1. A lack of musical ability, especially in relation to proper pitch. Unfortunately, most karaoke singers have a tin ear.
2. The inability to recognize subtleties in language. Don't try to joke around with him—he has a tin ear and can't distinguish sarcasm.
Fig. a poor ear for music; a poor hearing ability when it comes to music and distinguishing pitches. I think I had better not try to sing along with you. I have a tin ear and would ruin your performance.
An insensitivity to conditions. The term, dating from the first half of the 1900s, was originally used for a person insensitive to music, in effect tone-deaf. In time, it was transferred to other kinds of insensitivity, as in “The President might also point out that BP is not on Americans’ most-trusted corporations list right now—partly because of its carelessness, partly because of its executive’s tin ear” (editorial, New York Times, June 12, 2010).