Musicians & Hearing Loss

Musicians & Hearing Loss

Bary E. Williams, Au.D.

Born with hearing loss, Dr. Bary struggled in his early life to be completely engaged in the world around him. He obtain his masters and eventually his doctorate in audiology while working on the front lines as a hearing aid specialist during the day. Dr. Bary has been in practice for over 30 years and has worked for several of the largest hearing aid manufacturers.
Bary E. Williams, Au.D.

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Musicians have the magical job of creating incredible sounds that have the power to impact body and soul, whether that’s sending us to the dance floor or moving us to tears. Because this art and profession rely on delving deep into the world of sound it is not too surprising that research shows that musicians, as a group, have ears that are gifted and also easily compromised or injured by excess sound exposure.

Music can be loud, regardless of genre, and musicians’ valuable ears are in the direct line of fire. In fact, as a musician, you are nearly four times more likely to develop noise-induced hearing loss or tinnitus. If you’re a musician it is of the upmost importance for your mental physical and professional health to protect your hearing.

Preventing hearing loss with musicians earplugs

While the factors discussed above play a role in hearing loss, they affect us all differently. Some people may have constant loud sound exposure for years and suffer no ill effects, and others have long-term damage after just one event. Yet there is no debate that repeated exposure over time is destructive, and as such, every effort to mitigate this should be a priority for every musician. The good news is that even in the presence of damage, progression can be prevented by taking some immediate steps.

  • If you enjoy “feeling” the loud music at a rock concert, make sure you wear ear protection so you don’t ruin your hearing. Protect your hearing at all costs!
  • Develop the habit of paying attention to the volume levels around you by using a dB meter. If you don’t have a dedicated device, such as the Galaxy Audio Check Mate CM-130 SPL Meter, you can easily use a Smartphone app, many of which are free. Use quality speakers, headphones, or in-ear monitors to get accurate frequency response, but be careful to keep their volume levels in check at all times.
  • Get in the habit of using earplugs or even over the ear hearing protection when you’re in any loud environment (not just music venues). Put them in when using power tools, shooting firearms, mowing the grass, or going to that monster truck rally or sporting event.
  • When you do use in-ear protection, use best practices. Be sure they seal well in your ear canals — not only for comfort, but because a leaky seal defeats the purpose of using them in the first place. Never leave one in-ear monitor (IEM) out and one in; that’s a sure-fire way to damage your hearing over time. For musicians onstage, if you are having trouble hearing what’s going on around you (which actually means you’ve got a good seal), consider adding an ambient mic channel to your in-ear mix.

How Loud Is Too Loud?

Safe hearing volumes hover at around 60 decibels—the volume at which most normal conversations take place. By contrast, the average rock concert ranges between 100 and 120. These high decibel levels can do a lot of damage very quickly, which makes in-ear monitors or earplugs an essential part of your musician’s kit. Because our ears tend to acclimate to noise, it can be tough to tell whether the volume is too loud. One way to get around this is by establishing a baseline before you start playing or listening to music. Find a quiet space and set your MP3 player or radio to a comfortable volume. If you notice yourself cranking the volume up later—whether because of background noise or a desire for more noise—you’ll know that it’s time to use hearing protection.

Exceptional Hearing Care

If you are a musician and you want to continue making and enjoying music into the future it is important to get your hearing checked regularly.  At Exceptional Hearing Care, we can test your hearing and make sure your efforts to protect your hearing are working.  We can provide tips to help you protect your hearing.  If a hearing loss is detected we can help you find the best hearing aids for you and to help you enhance your career. Schedule your annual appointment with us today!

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