When I was younger I was invincible (or so I thought). Music blasting, standing in front of the speakers at gigs, turning my guitar up to full volume on a Saturday night – much to my neighbours joy. The idea of wearing earplugs was silly, because that’s for old people and it’s not cool.
Do you know what’s not cool? A piercing pain inside your inner ear and a horrific ringing in your ears that lasts anywhere between a few seconds to over an hour. This uncool set of symptoms my friends is Tinnitus and is a sign that you have damaged your ears.
Do you know what else is not cool? The prospect of never being able to hear and enjoy music properly ever again, which is the danger you could face should you continue causing so much damage to your ears.
So what can musicians and audio engineers do to help prevent hearing loss?
Try to limit your exposure to load noises to two hour blocks – especially if you are using headphones for mixing or mastering. Take regular breaks of around 30 minutes or so – which also helps during the editing process since most engineers will understand that after a point you tend to go a little blind to whatever you’re working with when you’ve been listening to it for long periods of time.
Mix at sensible levels
The kind where you can still have a conversation with other people in the room. No more than 85 db is a good starting point. If you are using headphones, employ the point above! We’re all guilty of cranking up the volume on those penultimate mixes, or whilst on the daily commute when you are subjected to an array of lifes noises; buses, workmen and the general city hustle and bustle. Try to keep the volume at a sensible level. (Boring yeah, but much better than having irreversible hearing damage right?)
Invest in some decent ear plugs
Whether you’re in the studio or out at live shows, these are essential. We never enter the studio without them, for rehearsals and recording and we have plenty of spares in case the inevitable happens and we lose an earplug.
There are a vast array of affordable models on the market. You can also check out “Hear For Musicians” who offer a musicians hearing health scheme. For a small amount of money a year, they will provide you with ear plugs and an audiological assessment, with many other perks included. You also get a discount if you’re part of the musician’s union.
It’s important to put preventative measures in place and look after your ears as hearing loss can often be a gradual thing that you might not notice. There is nothing worse than the prospect of losing the ability to hear certain frequencies and this will be a major hindrance during your musical career, whether you are a recording musician, live or studio engineer. Don’t wait until it’s too late!