Musicians are at a greater risk of acquiring tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and general hearing damage than people in most other professions. In 2008 a German study found that professional musicians are nearly four times as likely as other folks to suffer tinnitus or hearing damage or loss. Hearing protection can be an invaluable tool for preventing these possibilities, but many musicians forego hearing protections for various reasons. Chief among these reasons is that they believe hearing protections impede their ability to accurately hear the sounds they are producing. Fortunately, technology has come a long way in addressing this concern while continuing to put the health and safety of musicians’ hearing first.
Hearing Protection for Musicians
Technology has given us several tools for mitigating the potential hearing damage musicians face while limiting (or outright eliminating) the negative impact this has on one’s ability to hear the music they’re playing.
The following are the 3 most prevalent forms of hearing protection for musicians, starting with the most basic and increasing from there in advances.
Passive Filtering Ear Plugs
By inserting passive filters into custom ear molds that reduce equally all frequencies of sound passing through, a musician can reduce the volume at which they hear the sounds they produce without reducing any acuity in the attenuation. In other words, the sounds will come through softer, but otherwise maintain their original fidelity undistorted. This is the most basic and affordable option for protecting musicians’ hearing.
Active Filtering Ear Plugs
With the addition of electronics, a passive filter can be turned into an active filter, which again maintains the fidelity of sounds, but also adjusts the attenuation so the sounds aren’t muted or dampened any more than necessary.
Currently, active filtering ear plugs are made in basic, predetermined sizes and have not yet been made available in custom-molded ear plugs. This is the mid-range option, both in cost and effectiveness, for musicians wishing to protect their hearing.
In-ear monitors are the most advanced, and therefore expensive, option available to protect a musician’s hearing, serving as both hearing protection and hearing assistance while playing and listening to music. In-ear monitors may be custom-molded, and they allow the artist or their engineer to control the fidelity of sounds transmitted through the ear-monitors live in real-time. That means as the volume and mix changes, the sounds a musician hears through his or her in-ear monitors can adjust accordingly so that their own voice or instrument always comes through clearly, which means both audibly and accurately. Certainly when a musician can hear their voice or instrument better, they’re able to play their part better.
Designed to eliminate the need to use floor monitors, in-ear monitors come in a great many varieties, incorporating a variety of useful technologies and features. For example, some in-ear monitors include the ability for two-way communication with an engineer. Other in-ear monitors include triple drivers for improved quality of sound.
How an Audiologist Can Help
Are you unsure which type of musician’s hearing protection is best for you? Consult with an audiologist like the ones at Audiology Island for help deciding. An audiologist can test your hearing, first of all, and let you know exactly where your current auditory health stands. The audiologist can then discuss your options with you for hearing protection.
During your visit, your audiologist will almost certainly discuss certain topics with you and ask certain questions, including the following:
- Are you experiencing any tinnitus?
- Are you experiencing any current hearing loss?
- At what decibel levels are you typically playing your music?
- How much time do you spend playing/listening to music at these levels?
At AudiologyIsland you can begin your journey to protecting your hearing with a free online hearing test. It takes only 5 minutes, and afterward you can decide whether to attend a Virtual Hearing Seminar or simply set up an appointment with an audiologist. Of all professions musicians should be most sensitive to keeping their hearing clear and strong for a lifetime. Thanks to technological advances of the last few decades, this is