protect your hearing

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Really, there’s not much more to say. Everyone should protect the vastly helpful sense of hearing. Especially if you are a musician, recording engineer or producer, your ability to listen is essential. Without full-spectrum hearing, musicians do not have the essential tool to review music (and other sounds). You can only protect your hearing by reducing listening levels whenever possible and using hearing protection. Don’t wait. You need to do this now.

I have mild tinnitus. Have had for about 20 months. I was auditioning on keyboards for a classic rock band. The layout of the stage left me with one slot and that was next to the cymbals of the drum kit. Ironically, at this stage in my music career, I already had several sets of high-quality, full-spectrum hearing protection. These earplugs are specifically made for musicians and other people who want to hear all of the music will reducing the stress on the ears. The idea is that this hearing protection lets all frequency levels of sound through while reducing the impact on the ears and eardrums by about 15-25 decibels (dB). I had also used full-range protection (either cupped ear covers or earplugs) in other situations where I did not need to hear the noise around me at all: in server rooms, in airplanes and so on.

So, on this particular occasion, I had one of my sets of full-range earplugs in my gig bag. Since we were setting up, I had not put them in my ears yet. My thought was that I needed to hear lower-level talk and that I could put the protection in later. I was still down on the floor, plugging the last cables into my rig when the drummer decided to start a full-blown beat — complete with multiple cymbal crashes — to warm up. By the time I raised up from the floor and moved away to point of lesser decibal intensity, it was too late. Since that moment, I have had periods of ringing in my ears almost every day.

The good news for me is that I still have hearing that is barely affected by years of impact from rock bands and other noisy exposure. The last time I got a test, both ears were almost identical and the range of my hearing is just slightly reduced. The down-side is that I have this intermittent ringing that is very annoying. I have found one homeopathic remedy that does quite well at reducing the symptom to a minimum. (2016 Note: this remedy has been discontinued.) There is no known cure for tinnitus. Once one has tinnitus, about the only thing to do is

  • minimize listening to loud music/sounds (which you should do before you get the ringing in your ears);
  • get daily exercise; and
  • reduce your intake of caffeine and nicotine.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame that drummer for my tinnitus. Without the years of other stress on my hearing, that loud drumming might not have led to tinnitus for me. I just want to help you avoid dealing with tinnitus or other hearing-related issues. So the point remains the same: start immediately to protect your hearing. If you are a musician, every moment and penny you spend on this is an investment in one of your most important capabilities for your art. Here are some other suggestions that can help to reduce stress on your hearing:
  • Limit your use of headphones. In other words, only use the headphones for that really fine-point listening. If your speakers aren’t good enough for most of your listening, upgrade them. It will be worth the cost in every way.
  • Avoid earbuds if at all possible. They run the risk of putting the sound-source even closer to the easily damaged parts of the ear. If you can’t avoid using them, reduce the volume and the listening time per day.
  • As I’ve already mentioned, find hearing protection appropriate to the sound you’re being exposed to and wear it.
Playful blessings,
Stan
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12 comments

  1. You know, in all the years I’ve blasted music in the car or stood next to the speakers at concerts,I never thought about how much damage could be done to the hearing of the musicians who are constantly exposed. I think my hearing problems are more of a “selective” nature, but one never knows.

    Hope you had a phenomenal birthday, and enjoyed something extraordinary. ooxx

  2. What an annoying problem for a musician to have. I’m glad yours isn’t severe.

    I don’t know how long I’ve had tinnitus. It seems that I’ve always had it. When I was about 10, I had to have tubes put in my ears, but I don’t know if that has anything to do with it. I don’t remember if I had it then.

    There are times when it’s so loud I can hear it over the computer’s humming. I’ve had trouble sleeping a few times. That hasn’t happened for awhile, thank goodness.

    When it did happen, there was a different type of buzzing, which I can’t explain because I can’t remember it.

    I wonder if working in the factories may have been a factor. I worked in a couple for less than 10 years one of them wasn’t really that noisy, but, it there was noise from machines all day.

    It’s not always very noticeable, almost as though it’s gone, but when I become aware of it, it seems like it’s always there.

    Good advice about the earphones and earbuds. I’d give that advice to my daughter, but she’d rather experience the pain first. lol She doesn’t like loud noises either so the volume isn’t turned up. Hopefully she won’t be affected.

    1. Diana,
      Thanks for the response and for sharing your experience.
      I’m really grateful to continue to connect with wonderful people like you on the twittersphere and blogosphere.

      Playful blessings,
      Stan

  3. It’s amazing how many musicians know better, but still don’t use any hearing protection. I’ve heard all of the excuses – and used them myself. But after playing for over 20 years I have sustained irreparable hearing damage.

    I do have tinnitus, and I have lost some of my hearing. But I’ve finally taken control by using musician’s ear plugs or in ear monitors all the time. And I use isolation headphones to practice.

    The thing I wish I could convince younger players is that, at some point, they WILL want to protect their hearing. So do it now! Get used to playing with plugs or IEMs or headphones or whatever ya gotta do.

    Thanks for the article!

  4. I’m sorry to hear that you were affected by loud sounds in this way and that the chronic tinnitus lingers. We might think that over time the disturbing sounds would go away. But, if they don’t, perhaps a few homeopathic remedies may come in handy. I see you are already using a combination remedy that contains Calcarea carbonica, Chininum sulphuricum, Kali carbonicum, Lycopodium clavatum and Salicylicum acidum. The most common remedy, arnica, we think of for injury to the body. And, it could be that a professional homeopath may find another of the thousands of remedies that would suit you more precisely. Wishing you the best, Debby

    1. Thanks, Debby! And good call on the arnica. I’ll talk with our local homeopathic doctor about dosage, etc. That other homeopathic I use has worked surprisingly well, too. In general, I’ve been a real success story when it comes to homeopathy.

      Thank you also for the link to the post about the ear. Good information.

      I’m really honored that you stopped by and left a comment!

      Playful blessings,
      Stan

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