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Musician's Enemy: Hearing Damage

By Edited Jan 12, 2014 3 3

Hearing loss?

Everyday musicians are exposed to loud noises whether we recognize it or not. It’s not uncommon to busk in a busy street with ample traffic, practice for a long duration on high registers and worse of all, performing or attending a loud concert or nightclub. Hearing loss is an issue that cannot be repaired and take its toll at a later age because symptoms are often ignored or not recognized.

Musicians do not only practice but they also listen to music quite frequently, therefore they’re exposed to more music per day than the average person. Hearing damage occurs after 85 decibels (db) and depending on which instrument or music you play will affect the duration of practice you’re allowed to do. Usually the first sign of too much sound exposure is a constant ‘ring’ in your ear when you’re in a quieter environment. Furthermore, too much sound exposure over 85db too frequently will result in a permanent ‘ring’ which is known as tinnitus. Tinnitus may cause a few health issues for patients such as stress, disruption, anxiety and misinterpretation of sounds. Additionally, hearing damage can hamper social activities you do with your daily lives. Obviously it is not always possible to avoid and control loud environments such as music concerts and large crowds; therefore some prevention strategies will be useful.

-       Avoid using headphones when you’re listening to music

-       Ask your friends if they can hear the music through your headphones, if they can then it          is probably too loud.

-       Use earplugs in nightclub venues or loud concerts.

-       Practice you instrument with a mute if possible or play softer.

As a musician it is not ideal to play quiet all the time, as we need to express our musicality through dynamics as well. The best way to counter this situation is to find suitable earplugs for your playing. There are different types of earplugs, the two that are normally used for musicians are foam or custom made earplugs. The problem with the foam one is that it blocks out all the sound and affects the quality of what you hear when you’re practicing. The custom made one is usually too expensive. So what do you do? If you don’t mind spending a few hundred dollars then by all means purchase the custom made earplugs. However, an alternative has been made which also produces similar results to the custom made earplugs and will be very affordable: The Etymotic Research high fidelity earplugs. They come at an affordable price and have the ability to reduce the decibels while preserving the sound quality.

Hearing is un-repairable, fortunately science and technology has created hearing aids to help the hearing impaired but lets hope you won’t need one of those anytime soon!



Jan 8, 2014 8:04am
What's interesting about this is that despite The Who being in the Guinness Book of World Records at one time being the LOUDEST act (in terms of decibels) in concert, Pete Townshend said his hearing loss came from working in the studio with HEADPHONES on.

I remember seeing Fred Schneider of the B-52s jamming toilet paper in his ears in live shows to block the noise. I personally suffer from tinnitus in both ears (worse in the right) from cranking my guitar at too high volume both live and in my home.

Hearing loss blows, and this article is a good one to get people to stuff their ears a bit to shunt the sound barrage from a live show (Andy Summer's guitar mix on the sound board at a live show I attended back in the early 1980s left me almost deaf for three days!)
Jan 8, 2014 8:05am
Oh, and I thumbed, +1'd, and tweeted this piece!
Jan 8, 2014 6:04pm
Thanks! Yes, I personally think that headphones were the reason why I have tinnitus in both ears. I now use the Er20 earplugs whenever I head out to loud venues or rehearsals. It's cheap and easy to use.
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