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Ear Protection for Musicians


Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is an occupational hazard for all musicians. Workers in factories, mills or other noisy environments are required to wearing devices to protect their hearing. But the long hours a musician spends practicing can damage their hearing too. That’s why it is important for musicians to protect their hearing.

Musicians with hearing loss

Phil Collins, Bono, and Sting. These are all very famous and very successful musicians that have noise-induced hearing loss as a result of their musical careers. Sting’s hearing loss moved him to become an ambassador for the Hear The World Foundation a group dedicated to hearing loss prevention and assistance to disadvantaged people with hearing loss. Phil Collins entered a period of retirement when he decided that he would stop performing live in an effort to save what hearing he had left. Eventually, he returned to music, with more focus on writing music and less focus on performing.

Many professional musicians also suffer from tinnitus as a result of exposure to noise. This includes the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Chris Martin and Will.i.am. Chris Martin is open about the damage that music caused to his ears and encourages anyone exposed to loud noise to wear protection. Once he began wearing hearing protection the tinnitus has not worsened. For these musicians, it’s too late to stop the damage that has already occurred. But new and young musicians can learn from their experience and start protecting their ears now.

A sample of noise exposure levels

It isn’t just rock musicians who are in danger of damaging their hearing. Violinists, pianists, and even oboe players produce sounds that can cause damage. According to HearNet.Com, a nonprofit dedicated to educating musicians and music lovers, many musical instruments can cause damage:

Instrument                              Decibel Loudness

Piano (fortissimo)                   92-95 dB

Violin                                       84-103 dB

Cello                                        82-92 dB

Oboe                                       90-94 dB

Flute                                        85-111 dB

Piccolo                                     95-112 dB

Clarinet                                   92-103 dB

French Horn                            90-106 dB

Trombone                               85-114 dB

MP3 Player at 5/10                 94 dB

Exposure above 90 decibels can cause noise-induced hearing loss.

Ear protection for musicians

Since musicians depend on their hearing for their music, it is critical to protect those ears. Special earplugs are available for musicians. These don’t block all the sound; it just lowers the volume. They should also learn to stand beside a speaker and never in front or directly behind the speaker. This minimizes the exposure to the sound coming from the speaker.

See an audiologist about in ear monitors and earplugs. If performing requires amplified playback, then in-ear monitors are the first choice in hearing protection. In-ear monitors are custom fit (much like a hearing aid) and reduce ambient noise. With the right fit, a reduction of 25-35 dB is achieved. These are great for live performances and recording studio mixing.

If the musician doesn’t need amplified playback, musician’s earplugs are fitted with custom filters that don’t eliminate high frequency sound, they just bring the volume level down. They are vented and have small diaphragms that capture all frequencies so sounds are not muffled.

If you’re a musician looking for better ear protection, visit a hearing care professional in your area to find out what product would work best for your individual needs.