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Musicians Should Rock Responsibly

If youre a professional musician and your hearing isnt perfect, it may have an impact on your career, unless you aspire to be the best garage band on your block. Then quality of hearing isnt as important as it is if youre playing cello in an orchestra. Loud hurts, though you may not notice it until its too late. Protecting your hearing, will protect hearing your greatest love - music.

The Gradual Loss of Hearing versus Acoustic Trauma

In a paper published on AudiologyOnline ( www.AudiologyOnline.com ) Dr. Marshal Chasin discussed the topic of hearing loss protection in musicians.

The first sign of permanent hearing loss, according to the author, is temporary hearing loss. Go to a rock concert and your ears could be ringing for up to 18 hours, which is a sign of damage. But, over time the ear returns to normal function, at least for a while. However, if you go to a rock concert five nights a week (like many musicians do), the inner ear never has the chance to recover and youre on the road to permanent hearing loss.

So, what about professional musicians, rock gods, or tenoroti? These folks are on stage night after night exposed to noise at very high levels of volume measured in decibels (dBs). The more dBs, the louder the sound. And according to Dr. Chasin, continuous exposure to 85dBs (not really that loud) will cause damage over time. Its a factor of the length of the exposure and the loudness of the sound.

The Fixes

You dont have to kill the music to protect your hearing. Who doesnt want the music to play on? Dr. Chasin recommends all in moderation and most importantly for musicians, hearing protection specialized for musicians.
So what are some things Dr. Chasin recommends?

  • Sound from a speaker moves in a straight line from speaker to ear bones. So, if a musician stands to the side of the speaker instead of directly in front of it, theres less impact on the musicians ear. That was easy.
     
  • The use of musician earplugs, which have grown more popular with on-stage musicians who recognize the danger their occupations poses to long-term hearing. These hear-through devices can be adjusted at the sound board off stage so each performer is able to hear his or her part while lessening the impact of the kettle drum three feet stage right.
     
  • Another fix-it? The high-hat cymbal, part of every drummers kit, puts out a high-pitched whish thats particularly loud and right at the upper ranges of hearing one of the danger zones within the hearing spectrum. So, if youre the base player take a few steps to the left of the drummers high hat. And dont forget to wear your hear-throughs.
     
  • Other recommendations include humming in anticipation of a loud section of music. When a human humms, it contracts a muscle in the middle ear which stiffens part of the hearing mechanism. The result is less sound reaches the inner ear and provides some protection, though it definitely is no cure-all, thats a fact.

The final point of Dr. Chasins report: long-term exposure to noise, whether on stage or on the factory floor will ultimately tire out the hearing system. And it doesnt have to be ear-splitting noise, either.

Dr. Chasin recommends that musicians and others exposed to loud noises that lead to gradual hearing loss or acoustic trauma take precautionary steps to either avoid hearing loss altogether and to slow the debilitating process.

So, play on musicians. A world without music is a dull place. Just remember, a world without sound can be a terrible place a place you dont want to live.

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