People love music. Music is powerful, and something people from all walks of life can relate to in some way. It would be challenging to walk through a busy street without seeing at least a handful of people jamming out to music on their headphones. Although your favorite tunes can quickly brighten up your day, it can have a detrimental effect on hearing abilities if you are not careful. Musicians are significantly higher at risk than the average individual to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss because they are around instruments on a regular basis. The good news is that there are several steps you can take to protect your hearing if you are a part of the music industry. Here is a musician’s guide for hearing protection!
Which Types Of Musicians Are More At Risk for Hearing Loss?
Every musician in the world is at risk of experiencing hearing damage, as frequent sound exposure can have detrimental effects on their hearing. For this reason, it is always a good idea to take precautions whenever possible to ensure minimal impacts of hearing loss throughout their career. Drummers, in particular, must be especially mindful of these measures because their instrument often requires them to endure some of the most powerful frequencies in music. Even more specifically, the sounds made from snares are especially harmful to a musician’s hearing than drums alone, and because of this, precautionary measures are often necessary to protect their hearing. The same can be said for guitarists who often stand close to their amps, as the frequency levels generated by a rock song can take an exceptionally dangerous toll on a musician’s ears. It is also important for musicians who play in an orchestra or band to be conscious of noise levels caused by other instruments surrounding them, as louder sounds created by a large group can often contribute to hearing loss and other negative effects of high-frequency sounds.
Symptoms Of Hearing Loss
If you have ever experienced feelings of dizziness, ear soreness, or a loss of balance following concerts or loud sporting events, you may have suffered temporary hearing loss from excessive noise exposure. In most cases, your hearing should return to normal after a few hours. However, it is important to realize that if your ears are enduring this trauma on a regular basis, your hearing levels may not fully recover. In addition to these immediate symptoms, other symptoms of hearing loss often include:
- Difficulty tuning instruments
- Continually needing repetition in social settings
- Inability to hear in noisy environments like malls, restaurants, and other crowded areas
Tinnitus is a hearing condition that plagues more than 45 million Americans. It’s symptoms often start with persistent buzzing sounds or bell ringing at random times throughout the day. For many people who suffer from tinnitus, these symptoms are often alarming because of their random occurrences in the day, and many adults suffer from these symptoms consistently throughout the day. While tinnitus is most commonly diagnosed amongst seniors, any person of any age can suffer from this condition. It is often caused by the overexposure to loud sounds, making musicians, construction workers, and anyone working around persistent loud noises throughout the day are at particularly high risk for developing tinnitus. Although there is currently no single cure for tinnitus, there are many treatments available to alleviate symptoms over time.
Common Misconceptions About Hearing Damage
Many musicians do not appreciate the importance of hearing protection because they believe in one, or more of the following myths:
- If your instrument is not loud, it cannot cause damage to your hearing
- You won’t be at risk of hearing loss if you do not play often
- If your ears do not hurt, you are not causing damage to your ears
- Singers do not have to worry about protecting their hearing
Ear Protection for Musicians
Take Breaks Between Rehearsals/Performances
Musicians surrounded by loud music in both concerts and daily rehearsals should take breaks from the noise every so often to escape the damaging effects of loud sounds for short periods of time. This is one of the best ways to ensure minimal damage to your hearing over long periods of time. Although they may seem short and insignificant, taking a few quiet moments in between songs can give your ears a much-needed break from loud noises that may otherwise take a painful toll on your hearing.
Musicians Ear Plugs
While it may sound like an arbitrary point to recommend earplugs to a musician, this is one of the best ways to prevent hearing loss in the future. Even while wearing earplugs, musicians are still able to hear music without the damaging effects that their hearing may otherwise be exposed to without them. Although foam ear plugs are an effective option, custom-fitted musician earplugs provide the best protection to ensure minimal damage to a musician’s hearing while playing music. Because basic foam earplugs are often blamed for muffling sounds, filtered earplugs and musician earplugs help make sounds clear and concise. In using these earplugs to effectively protect their hearing, a musician should have no trouble differentiating their instrument from other instruments around them while playing.
Since modern technology has now granted us convenient access to resources at our fingertips, most people do not go anywhere without having their smartphone in their pockets. Since these devices are readily available to us, why not take advantage of a sound level meter application to monitor the noise around you? When you are exposed to loud noises for a prolonged period of time, it can often become difficult to tell if your music is too loud for safe hearing. If you install and utilize one of these apps on your phone or tablet, you will receive alerts when you are playing at a volume that may be dangerous to your hearing.
Acoustic shields are small but mighty plexiglass shields that protect the musician from damaging effects of loud noises while playing. These shields are often placed behind the heads of musicians while playing their music to reduce the harmful impacts of louder sounds that are generated by multiple instruments playing loudly at one time, such as in an orchestra. In these settings, many musicians often cannot hear how loud the music around them is, so these effects go dangerously unnoticed while playing during a show or concert. By reducing sound transmission with these shields, groups of musicians are well protected by the harmful effects of loud music that is necessary for their show.
Reduce Reverberations on Hard Surfaces
Music teachers are at risk of hearing loss because of the frequent exposure to loud sounds. One of the best steps they can take to reduce the harmful effects of these noises is to limit the number of reverberations in the spaces where they teach. This includes eliminating hard surface items like tile floors, metal cabinets and hard furniture and adding softer elements like curtains and carpet to these rooms. These objects will better absorb loud noises so that there is minimal damage caused by reverberations in their classes each day.
Limit Sound Exposure Outside Of Your Career
We are always exposed to sounds throughout the day, and because of this, noise is going to have a cumulative effect on our hearing abilities. Particularly for musicians, prolonged periods of exposure to loud noises can be especially harmful, and for this reason, it is a good idea to try and limit your sound exposure when you are not at work. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following standards have been set forth for limiting occupational noise exposure:
- The NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) for occupational noise exposure is set at 85 decibels.
Hearing Better is Living Better
Your ability to hear beyond the demands of your career in music has a direct connection to the quality of your everyday life at home. In addition to hearing and appreciating the music that you create each day, it is equally important to be able to hear and enjoy the common happenings of everyday life. Canary hearing wants all musicians to be able to listen, play, and enjoy music to their fullest capabilities. We offer many different kinds of hearing protection products including special options for musicians.
Better Hearing Starts with Canary Hearing
Are you experiencing hearing loss? Canary Hearing can help. We are a family owned and operated hearing aid dispensing practice with over 40 years of professional hearing correction experience. Our full-time hearing care professionals can assist you in selecting and fitting the right hearing aids to help you start living life to the fullest. Get in touch with Canary Hearing today or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.