Musicians depend on hearing for their craft—composing, conducting, and performing. But research shows that professional musicians are four times as likely to develop noise-induced hearing loss. Musicians such as Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, and our client, Randy Bachman, have all developed permanent hearing loss after years of exposure to “noise”. Even though music is enjoyable, if the volume is too high, for too long, the sound will cause hearing damage for the musician and the audience.
Music can leave ears ringing…and more
Musicians are also 57% more likely to experience tinnitus (pronounced tih-NITE-us or TIN-ih-tus), a perceived sound with no external source. Most often tinnitus is associated with ringing, but sounds can also include including buzzing, chirping or hissing. While not life threatening, tinnitus usually goes hand-in-hand with hearing loss and should be evaluated by an Audiologist for a treatment plan.
Prolonged exposure to loud music can result in other hearing disorders including trouble hearing pitch (diplacusis) and sensitivity to loud sounds (hyperacusis). Right now, there is no cure for hearing loss, tinnitus or other associated hearing disorders so the best thing to do is be proactive by protecting your hearing.
Hearing protection isn’t only for musicians
You should use musician plugs:
- As a professional musician.
- If you play music for fun.
- Any time music is amplified.
- If you enjoy concerts.
- Listening to loud music at home.
Standard hearing protection
Standard hearing protection like foam ear plugs or mouldable wax that are available at the pharmacy will attenuate (decrease) the intensity of the sound reaching the cochlea; however, it also creates a "hollow" sound that singers in particular report to be unnatural. If you’re attending a concert or other activity with amplified sound foam ear plugs can help block harmful noise levels.
One-size-fits-all musician ear plugs such as Etymonic ER20xS are available in a standard, large and universal fit on Amazon for approximately $20.00 CDN a pair. They have a lower profile to fit the ear canal (which can vary greatly in size and shape) so while snug, won’t offer the same comfort level as custom-made ear plugs. They do reduce sound levels and deliver a clear, crisp sound while protecting your hearing. One-size-fits-all musician ear plugs can be useful for amateur musicians and at concerts.
Custom musician ear plugs
The best way to protect your hearing while practicing with the band or performing gigs is with custom musician earplugs.
A musician's earplug has a filter which will allow for high frequency sounds to pass through, eliminate the "hollow" sound, and will provide the adequate attenuation needed to protect your hearing.
There are four different filters available:
- ER – 9: for vocalists where less attenuation is needed.
- ER - 15: appropriate for most rock, blues and classical instruments.
- ER - 25: recommended for drummers.
- Vented/tuned earplugs recommended for the bass, cello (instruments without much treble), or for clarinets (instruments that are not damaging but play near louder instruments like the drums).
Here's a chart we refer to when discussing which ear plug is right for each instrument:
We can fit you for the right custom musician's ear plugs. Your Audiologist will take an impression of your ear canal, send the impression away and have musician plugs made with the appropriate filter (additional filters can be ordered and can be exchanged in the plug). The cost of custom-made musician's earplugs using the ER 15 or 25 filter is approximately $240.00 for a pair. Custom ear plugs last 4-5 years and are well worth the investment.
Even with hearing protection, it’s important that musicians think about where they practice and play and the impact of sound.
Dr. Frank Wartinger offers the following tips:
- Consider overall sound exposure when planning a rehearsal schedule
- Think about sound exposure and acoustics of your rehearsal venue
- Do you have proper monitor equipment at your rehearsal venue?
- Vary how long you practice
- Mix in unplugged sessions that limit amplification
- Hold smaller, sectional rehearsals
- During conversation between songs discourage playing
Get a comfortable, custom fit musician’s ear plugs
If you’re a budding musician, a garage band group, a professional, or simply enjoy listening to music, our Audiologists will ensure you get the right kind of custom ear plugs for the perfect fit. Protect your hearing and enjoyment of music. Call to schedule an appointment at Broadmead Hearing Clinic: 250.479.2969 or Oak Bay Hearing Clinic: 250.479.2921.