Hearing Protection

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Brutus Maximus
Feb 03, 2009 3:07 PM GMT
How many of y'all use some form of hearing protection, either when attending shows, rehearsing, or performing?

I've worn standard industrial-style earplugs for years any time I'm using
power tools or mowing the lawn, or even running the vacuum cleaner. I also wear them whenever I ride my motorcycle any substantial distance. Motorcycle Consumer News has done a series of in-depth studies on hearing loss among motorcyclists, and the effectiveness of different sorts of earplugs. It's not really engine noise that causes the hearing loss, even with open drag pipes, but wind roar, which is exactly the sort of frequency and volume
to cause major, irreparable hearing loss.

As careful as I am with my hearing under most circumstances, I've never really worn any protection when listening to bands or performing. Standard earplugs attenuate the sound very well, but they muffle it so much that music
sounds lousy. Since I had to spend down the remainder of my tax-deferred medical expenditure account before the end of the year or lose the money I'd put into it, I made an appointment at an audiology
clinic to be fitted for hi-fi musicians earplugs. They inject quick-setting silicone goop in each ear to take the impressions, which feels kinda weird. Then they send the impressions off to the lab to have the plugs made. It takes about two weeks for the lab to make them and ship them back to the clinic.

I picked them up a couple of weeks ago. They take practice to insert--they have to line up just right, then they pop in with a satisfying clunk. I've had a chance to wear them at several shows, though I haven't tried performing with them in. I wore them at one ridiculously loud show in a small club. It sounded great with the plugs in, though other people were wincing in pain and stuffing bar napkins in their ears. As a test, I took them out for the ast song to compare the sound. I couldn't hear the nuances of the music at all without the earplugs. It was just a roar of noise. I put the plugs back in and suddenly I could hear every note in full definition. I'm going to take them to every gig and show I attend from now on. If I don't need them, they can just stay in their case, but if I do need them it only takes a moment to pop them in.

$160 dollars: Money I was going to lose if I didn't spend it

Still being able to hear well when I'm an old man: Priceless

You do the math.

Comments (12)

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Feb 03, 2009 3:10 PM GMT
Brutus Maximus Replied:

PS: Brady, the Preview and Post function isn't working right--it messed up the formatting, but when I went back to edit it, it posted the messed-up version instead.

Feb 03, 2009 3:52 PM GMT
jawbone s Replied:

I have tried ear plugs (The little off the shelf squishy foam deals) and I have enjoyed the music much more because of them. I haven't tried them while playing or singing tho because they seem to keep my sound right in my head (scares me!!!!) What I don't like is a band that can see it is too loud and does nothing to remedy it. I just leave.

Feb 03, 2009 5:05 PM GMT
dennis m Replied:

Years ago I realized I had to protect my ears when listening to live club performances because when I love someone I want to be close enough to hug the speakers. It began in Manny's Carwash in NYC for me. I would ball up some toilet paper or a pice of a napkin and put it in my ears which would enable me to sit right in front of Piazza's 6 10'' Harpking without exploding     

One night (memorable because I sat next to Johnny Winter) I was in Manny's seeing/hearing/loving the late William Clarke. After some conversation with Johnny the music started and I balled up my napkin discretely. I guess the company made me nervous because the pea like size was a little too small and each time I tried to remove the right sided piece to talk I pushed it further and further in. Of course as it was getting lost in my canal I was trying to conceal my terror from Johnny. Finally between sets I went and got some tweezers and managed to remove it. Now I use the nice squishy ones mentioned. Unless it's me on stage of course! My best. dennis

Feb 03, 2009 8:22 PM GMT
Brady Mills Replied:

hey Brutus....

Fixed. ;-)

Feb 04, 2009 1:10 AM GMT
Oldwailer Replied:

Interesting coincidence; I was working with a video crew in LA for a summer back in the late eighties--we happened to cover a Johnny Winter concert and my station was right directly in front of the main right stage speaker cab. I was too dumb to use napkins--just suffered through it--but it sure was too loud. Johnny Winter wasn't a favorite of mine after that.

My main and usual defense against too loud bands is to leave--that's a prerogative of us older folks. . . ;)

Feb 04, 2009 1:38 AM GMT
Bluesie Replied:

I use standard earplug. Those giving me a Shrek looking head!!! But, I protect my ear. Speaking of Johnny Winter, I had to leave once in Montréal 2/3 of the show because it was WAY TOO LOUD and I had nothin' and could not stand anymore.


Feb 07, 2009 10:11 AM GMT
Judge Replied:

I have a set of vented earplugs.You can get them from most music shops, try a drum shop, and are fairly cheap. A drummer friend put me onto them. Excellent! They cut the volume but allow the music through. Mine cost about £14 {$30?} and are amazing.I only wear one.
Who needs monitors!
Top Notch!

Feb 07, 2009 3:58 PM GMT
Fugazzi Replied:

Great idea! I should pick up a pair for going to concerts. To be honest, I haven't played in too many LOUD situations. I could see where standard ear plubs would sticnk.

Feb 07, 2009 9:07 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

For a musician, the over the counter earplugs are the wrong thing because they take a big swipe of everything across the board, and often too many decibels, often as much as 29 decibels, which may be OK for a place like Madison Square Garden in NYC, but in a smaller club, that's far too much.

What you want is a custom made one that takes off certain frequencies and not more than 10-15 decibels max. The real damage to your hearing is done more with the low end and every reputable audiologist is gonna tell you that. In this order, these are the real culprits of hearing damage:
1. electric bass
2. bass drums
3. cymbols (because of indefinite pitch)
4. electric guitar

By a wide margin, the real damage is always gonna come from electric bass.

Feb 09, 2009 4:40 PM GMT
Mr So-So Replied:

Like Brutus, I splurged for the custom-fitted $160 ones with 15 db filters. With ear plugs, fit is everything. The foam jobbies are hard to get right. They need to be way in there to be effective. I developed a tinnitus problem from being too foolish to leave a way-too-loud situation. By scrupulously protecting my hearing now, it is improving. Believe me, it's not something you want to have.

If you do a little Googling on the subject of hearing damage or tinnitus and music, you will find a long list of famous musicians who have trashed their hearing. If music is what you love and especially if it pays the rent, then a little hearing health insurance is well worth it. When you think about how much you spend on harps and harp gear, the price of a good pair of ear plugs is not that outrageous. I find they definitely improve the listening pleasure. I have not played in a club, but I have practiced with them in. It takes some getting used to. Seems louder, but also more "definition".

Oct 23, 2018 12:30 PM GMT
James F Replied:

Actually, I need a hearing protection while motorcycle riding. I was suffering ears ringing and this causes problem that why I want to buy motorcycle ear plugs. I found this website but its pricing is so high, I am looking to buy the cheap one. Could you please let me know the cheap one?

Jun 17, 2019 7:17 AM GMT
Garrett P Replied:

Quite painful topic for me since I'm not only playing several instruments but also djing at clubs and festivals. I can only advice one thing: using ear plugs as early as possible. Risks are real. I've already lost much of my hearing due to the lack of proper education on the helth topics.