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.
- 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.