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Thread February 21, 2015 editorial: comments

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Mike Levine

Mike Levine

1064 posts
AFicionado
First post
1 Posted on 02/21/2015 at 10:00:20

Do You Use Protection?

If I had lots of money to invest (one can dream), I’d find a well-run company that makes hearing aids and gobble up its stock. Why? Because as smartphone use continues to skyrocket, people are listening to more music than ever with earbuds and headphones — and they’re listening loud. The result will likely be a generation with premature hearing damage.

I recall being on a New York City subway train — surrounded by a cacophony of screeching metal against metal — and a guy in the seat across from me had earbuds on and was bopping to the rhythm of EDM. How could I tell what type of music it was? I could hear it leaking out of his earbuds from across the aisle of a noisy train!

Those of us who are musicians or producers or engineers (or most likely all three these days) have to be especially careful about our hearing — our most precious commodity. And if you’re a live performer, you have to be exceptionally diligent about hearing protection. Bands (or DJs) often produce music well over 85 dB (the damage threshold), so you’re exposed to potentially harmful levels for hours on end.

Not only can you lose hearing at certain frequencies (usually the upper-midrange speech recognition frequencies go first) but you’re also in danger of permanent tinnitus (ringing). It’s not unusual for your ears to ring after a loud gig, but it usually stops a day or two after. With too much exposure to damaging sound levels, though, your ears might never stop ringing. You’d have to adjust to living with a permanent high-pitched whine in your ears. And you’d notice it even more when you’re in a quiet environment — like when you’re trying to sleep. Tinnitus is not just annoying, it can be debilitating.

So, I would recommend a couple of things: First, wear earplugs if you play gigs. You can get off-the-shelf plugs made for musicians that sound a lot better than standard foam plugs — the latter are the musical equivalent of showering with a raincoat. But if you can invest in custom-fitted musicians plugs, you’ll get much better sound quality.

There’s no doubt it’s a challenge to adjust to wearing plugs onstage, but if it saves you from premature hearing loss or tinnitus (or both), the pain is worth the gain. Once you damage those precious ears, there’s no turning back the clock.

Because most music-related hearing damage results not from occasional exposure to loud sounds, but from repeated exposure, your studio is also a danger zone for your ears. To protect your ears, don’t monitor at loud levels for long periods of time, and keep your headphone levels relatively low. Sure, if you’re tracking with a drummer, you have no choice but to turn up your headphones, but for overdubs and mixing, go easy on the volume. What I often do is find a comfortable level and then reduce it a little. I usually find I can get by fine with lower headphone volume.

Do the same thing when you’re out and about, listening to your earbuds or headphones. Find a level that initially feels comfortable, and then turn it down some. Believe me, you don’t want to listen as loud as that poor fellow on the subway. I can’t imagine that he hasn’t already lost some hearing, and he was only in his twenties.

What’s the loudest show you ever played? And how long did it take for your ears to stop ringing? Let's discuss.

Have a great week.

Mike Levine

U.S. Editor, Audiofanzine

 

 

 

 

robertrafael.esquiveldiaz

robertrafael.esquiveldiaz

2 posts
New AFfiliate
2 Posted on 02/21/2015 at 10:31:42
Hi Mike:
Thanks for a great post. As a musician (drummer) and former garage band member, I can attest to the potential and very real threat of permanent hearing loss due to exposure to loud music over long periods of time. I agree that a small investment like a good pair of ear plugs for musicians would be a very wise investment for any musician. Your advice about turning down a notch on earphones is also a very simple way to protect our ears from potential damage.

Thanks again & keep up the good work.

Rob Eski
Everyday Jonas
Acapulco
Lepetemoldrive

Lepetemoldrive

1 post
New AFfiliate
3 Posted on 02/21/2015 at 12:59:04
Thanks for the great post. Hearing is so important to musicians, mixers, producers, mastering engineers, ...
The background of how I'm treating my ears is just the classical background, where you play an acoustical instrument,
and you are used to listen very carefully. I don't give a damn about feeling the vibration of an audio speaker or having to play loud all the time just for the vibe or trill of it; We go back way before music was amplified, just the loudness of the acoustical instrument, a violin, a cello, even a piano doesn't go that loud. So now even when producing the "louder" music genres you just listen at a fairly quiet level. OK, when mixing kick and bass especially you have to listen on a fairly loud level to make sure it works and frequencies don't fight, but for the most part just listen at a reasonable level, that's how you can protect your ears I've found. At least, that's what works for me ...

Garrard401

Garrard401

13 posts
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4 Posted on 02/22/2015 at 04:10:19
Hi, Mike,
Good advice!!
I had a scare many years ago, and decided to place my large monitors Behind Me rather then facing me with the volume levels turned down. By doing this my ears rarely suffer from listening fatigue. The only time my ears face my monitors big or small is during mix-downs…

The other interesting thing I learnt by monitoring with speakers behind you is that you hear all sorts of mid-range issues that sometimes can be disguised when listening head on.
thesweetspot

thesweetspot

8 posts
New AFfiliate
5 Posted on 02/23/2015 at 07:14:38
I admit, I feel as if I've already damaged my ears from jamming, playing shows and above all, listening too loud. It's immature of me, but I just value the energy that comes with an in-your-face wall of guitars....

But now that I'm learning and trying to improve my mixing skills, I think it poses a much bigger, long-term problem to stay on the same course. I'm gonna try and mix quietly as much as possible
Mike Levine

Mike Levine

1064 posts
AFicionado
6 Posted on 02/23/2015 at 12:28:23
Quote:
I had a scare many years ago, and decided to place my large monitors Behind Me rather then facing me with the volume levels turned down. By doing this my ears rarely suffer from listening fatigue. The only time my ears face my monitors big or small is during mix-downs…

Wow, that's an interesting idea. So you keep them behind you in non-critical situations, but still face your monitors when you're mixing? That sounds logistically tricky. How do you manage that?
Mike Levine

Mike Levine

1064 posts
AFicionado
7 Posted on 02/23/2015 at 12:32:16
Quote:
I just value the energy that comes with an in-your-face wall of guitars....

I totally understand what you're saying. Wearing ear plugs does diminish the musical energy somewhat, but when you think of the long run, it's worth it. I'm glad you've come around to that conclusion.
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