Musicians' Hearing Protection
Hearing loss has many causes. While the net result may be the same for those afflicted, getting to know the reasons behind those causes is of paramount importance to an audiologist. In some cases, hearing loss is nothing more than an inevitable consequence of the aging process. In others, hearing loss is the result of a genetic condition like Meniere’s disease which, while not curable is at least treatable.
Those who work with heavy machinery are obviously at risk. If you pound sidewalk with a jackhammer during your work days, you can expect to experience some damage to your hearing without the proper ear protection. Then, of course, there are individuals who enjoy concerts or nightlife. These habits come with exposure to loud noises, making them more likely to sustain hearing loss or tinnitus. The temporary hearing loss and tinnitus they experience when leaving the club may fade after a while, but when we are exposed to loud noises night after night, it’s only a matter of time before the damage becomes permanent.
The same goes for musicians. From orchestral violinists to crowd-surfing rock stars, all musicians need to take special care when it comes to their hearing.
Protect your hearing
Musicians face a relatively unique problem. They are exposed to loud noise regularly but unlike, say, construction workers they can’t afford to cover their ears with sound dampening mufflers. They need to be able to hear the music around them. They need to remain attuned to the rest of the band, choir or orchestra.
Thus, musicians need to protect their ears without muting the nuances of sound that come with music. Moreover, musicians with hearing loss must also be able to protect their hearing while also getting the distortion-free amplification they need on “missing” frequencies which allows them to do their job effectively.
Here we’ll look at solutions to help musicians protect their hearing while also looking at some tips for musicians who already experience hearing loss.
Plug it up
Nascent musicians may balk at the prospect of wearing earplugs. They may worry that wearing them will mask or distort the music that is their livelihood. Fortunately, there are a plethora of earplugs on the market which are made with the unique needs of musicians in mind.
These differ from the standard earplugs that might protect you from a sleepless night courtesy of your snoring significant other. For starters, they can be custom molded to the exact shape of your ears meaning that they will fit you and only you. Secondly, many have an adjustable volume control to help you determine how much ambient sound you let in, and how much you filter out. Many boast higher fidelity than standard earplugs, meaning that you won’t miss your cue because of muffled or distorted sound.
As an alternative to earplugs, in-ear monitors offer the best of both worlds. Again, they can be custom molded to fit your ears entirely and offer greater sound isolation so that you can tune out irrelevant or distracting sounds and focus on the music that matters. Some in-ear monitors IEMs have interchangeable ambient filters. These are great because they allow you to either have complete isolation (which essentially makes them into earplugs), or they are available with a passive filter that will attenuate volumes less dramatically.
Hearing aids for musicians
For musicians with hearing loss, the right hearing aid can make all the difference. Music is something that the hearing aid industry continues to grapple with. While many hearing aids are built with the amplification and clarification of speech in mind, decidedly less consideration is given to music.
Your highest priority should be to choose a hearing aid with a high maximum input level. A common frustration that many musicians face with their hearing aids is that loud noises result in distortion or, worse still, feedback. Either of these can be a nightmare for a musician. A high maximum input means that it can tolerate sounds at high decibels without distorting them.
Many modern digital hearing aids today come with a host of features such as speech enhancers, directional microphones and feedback cancellation. These are great for isolating someone’s voice in a crowded room but can be problematic when playing live music. See an audiologist about creating a program to switch these off so that you can play unimpeded. They may also be able to make slight calibrations that will minimize distortion while you are on stage.
Whether you want to learn more about protecting your ears or want to talk about how to make your hearing aid more conducive to your music, we’re here to help! Call our Audiology and Hearing Aid Services today on (912) 351-3038. We can’t wait to help you sound better than ever.