Hearing Conservation Tips for Musicians
Based on over 25 years of research and experience, we recommend that musicians and engineers take these important steps to protect your hearing.
- Get a baseline hearing test! This will tell you the current state of your hearing.
- See an audiologist annually to track possible changes to your hearing. Repeat testing is the true measure of success in your hearing conservation efforts.
- Use in-ear (personal) monitors on stage and in rehearsal. IEM systems isolate your ears from unwanted ambient sound, so that you hear only the monitor mix. By eliminating ambience, you increase the signal-to-noise ratio in the ear canal. As a result, you can listen with greater accuracy at lower volume levels.
- In general, use isolating earphones. Soft, custom-fit earphones fully seal the ear canal, providing the best isolation against unwanted ambient sound.
- To add ambient stage sound into your IEM mix, consider an active ambient system with microphones embedded in the earphones. The next best choice is to set up ambience microphones and have the monitor engineer add them to the IEM mix.
- Avoid so-called “ambient earphones” with vents or ports that allow uncontrolled sound into your ears. These designs eliminate the benefits of isolation, reducing the signal-to-noise ratio. This typically results in the need for higher IEM levels to compensate.
- Monitor at safe levels. Consult an audiologist who is equipped with the tools to measure your preferred listening levels. Only by direct measurement can you determine what these levels are, and whether they meet safety criteria for both exposure time and loudness level.
- Wear BOTH of your earpieces. Your perception of loudness is increased by 6 dB when wearing two earpieces instead of one. When using only one earpiece, the open ear is at risk from stage volume, and the ear using a monitor will need to be 6 dB louder than if you were wearing both. Wearing only one earpiece puts both your ears at risk!
- Use high fidelity earplugs when not using personal monitors. Professional earplugs (like Sensaphonics ER-9, ER-15, and ER-25 models) eliminate the “muffled” sound of commercial earplugs, effectively reduce sound levels without significantly compromising sound quality.
- Be aware! Signs of excessive exposure to loud sounds include ringing in the ear (tinnitus), buzzing, or temporary loss or changes in hearing sensitivity (threshold shift). If you experience these symptoms or other noticeable changes in your hearing, see your audiologist immediately!
- It bears repeating: See your audiologist annually. The absence of symptom does not necessarily indicate a lack of hearing issues. Research indicates that 70% of people with noise-induced hearing loss NEVER experienced ringing.
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