A Musician's Guide To Hearing Protection
As a musician, you must protect your ears. You can do this by wearing ear protection and monitoring the volume of the music you create. This guide will help you understand why keeping your ears safe is so important and how you can protect them accordingly.
As A Musician, You're At High Risk For Hearing Loss
Your career span is shorter than the average person in another profession. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), "Musicians have a higher rate of tinnitus and hearing loss than non-musicians; this may be due to exposure to loud sounds without adequate protection."
The number of professional musicians with hearing loss is staggering. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 20% of all professional musicians have some degree of noise-induced hearing loss.
That's an alarming statistic considering that only 2/3rds of professional musicians use ear protection! And if you think that your bandmates are using ear protection, think again: according to a study in The Journal Of Laryngology And Otology, most musicians do not know about the risks associated with their line of work—and even fewer make use of hearing protection during practices and performances.
- Buy A Sound Pressure Level (SPL) Meter
An SPL meter is a device that measures sound pressure levels. You can find these for sale online or in music stores, but if you're feeling adventurous, you could also make one yourself by taking an old cell phone and modifying the microphone so that it can record sounds.
Once you have a working SPL meter, try using it to measure the sound levels of different bands in your area—and don't forget to bring it with you when going out on tour! You'll be surprised at how loud some gigs get; this information will help inform decisions about hearing protection and other ways to protect yourself from overstimulation.
- Customized Earplugs Are Best
Custom earplugs are more comfortable to wear than the standard ones, and they fit your ear perfectly. This means that they are more effective at blocking out sound. It's also easier to hear conversations when you're wearing custom earplugs, so you can interact with your bandmates and audience without missing a thing. Custom-made plugs can be made in a wide range of colors and materials, so you can choose something that fits your style!
- Ear Protection Is Important For The Audience Too
Audience members are just as at-risk for hearing loss as musicians. You should encourage them to wear ear protection too. This can be tricky because many people don't know about the risks of hearing loss and don't understand what it means when they hear someone say "hearing damage" or "deafness." Here are some ways you can educate your audience members:
- Provide information on how noise exposure and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) work, along with pictures of hearing aids.
- Ask them if they have ever been exposed to loud music before—if so, ask if they noticed any ringing afterward. If so, explain that this is called tinnitus (pronounced tin-NIGHT-us), which could be a sign of potential hearing damage—and that listening to loud sounds without ear protection can lead to tinnitus and permanent hearing loss over time!
- If you're performing an outdoor show or concert during summertime when it's hot outside, encourage everyone around you at least once during each song: "Please take care of yourself by using earplugs!"
Don't let anyone make you feel bad about doing what's best for your ears. Don't let them tell you that wearing earplugs is a sign of weakness or failure—because it isn't! All musicians have some level of risk regarding hearing loss, but wearing earplugs will help reduce that risk and ensure that your ability to hear music is still intact after years in the business (and decades after!).
The longer you wait to protect your hearing, the more damage will be done to it – but if you follow our advice on choosing earplugs and using them properly every time, then there is no reason why your ears can't stay healthy to come.