For musicians, hearing is their most valued sense, and they are wise to protect their hearing with the most advanced hearing protection devices, including custom earmolds for ear plugs and in-ear monitors.
Many of us have suffered from tinnitus (ringing in the ears) after attending a concert. This is actually temporary hearing loss caused by the loud music that generally goes away in 10-18 hours after the show. It can be prevented by using simple hearing protection, such as ear plugs.
However, for professional musicians who listen to and play music for many hours every day, the hearing problems that can arise are more severe than a day of ringing in your ears. And the consequences to their music careers can be devastating. Thankfully, hearing loss, tinnitus and other hearing problems can be avoided entirely with proper hearing protection devices designed specifically for musicians.
The two main factors that affect hearing loss with respect to music is how loud the music is and how long you are exposed to it. We know that prolonged exposure to sound over 85 decibels (dB), over time, will cause permanent hearing loss. Note that 85 dB is not that loud – it's about the volume of the dial tone on a telephone. But it's the sustained exposure coupled with the volume that causes damage to your hearing.
Of course, musicians play music for hours every day, and often at volumes higher than the ring tone of a telephone! What can they do to protect their hearing?
A lot of professional musicians these days wear in-the-ear monitors. These are actually a type of modified hearing aid. These in-the-ear monitors allow the musicians to hear their own music, as well as that of others on stage, at a safe level. Using these monitors, and eliminating the on-the-stage "wedge" monitors lowers the overall sound level on stage.
Made of Plexiglass or Lucite, baffles are clear, plastic-looking shields set up in front of the drummer on stage. These baffles work to reduce the high-pitched sounds, like those from the cymbals. They protect the hearing of both the drummer and the other musicians on stage. Baffles have to be used correctly to be effective – they shouldn't be placed any higher than the drummer's ears.
There are three types of earplugs specifically for musicians: the ER-15, which is used for most rock/blues instruments, and for classical musicians; the ER-25, which is specifically for drummers; and vented/tuned earplugs. These earplugs are for instruments that don't have a lot of treble sound (like the acoustic bass or cello) or for those that aren't particularly damaging (like the clarinet), but that play near noisy, hearing-damaging instruments.
Ascent Audiology & Hearing can provide you with musician-specific earplugs that are custom fit precisely to the shape of your ears, and to your specific hearing needs. Come in for a free consultation so we can determine the best solution for you.
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