The Importance of Ear Protection


I grew up in an era of huge amplifier stacks sitting on either side of the drum kit. When sitting at the kit, these amps were at my ear level. And they were loud! This was also the era when decent sound systems and miking individual instruments was just starting to happen. Otherwise, as a drummer, you had to play LOUDLY to be heard above the stacks of speakers and amps. And no one ever thought about all this volume and how it would affect their hearing over time.

Fast forward to today. I had a hearing test recently and found that surprisingly my hearing is normal for a person my age. Both ears are considerably flat in all frequency ranges until you hit the highs, where there is a steep roll off. 

I'm lucky. A lot of big name rock musicians (and not so big name) who are in their 60's and above have severe hearing loss. My hearing is good, but I do have tinnitus, which is a high pitch ringing/squeal in my ears. And it's always there—24/7/365. 

I can never really experience a quiet moment. Sometimes it's very noticeable, like right now. Other times, especially when I'm distracted by something else, I don't notice it. But it's always there. I pay attention to it and have found that stress and being tired can aggravate and make it more present. There's a lot of research on it, but so far no cure or simple sort of relief. Some people need to use a white noise machine, or other sound source, to mask it. Meditation can help. But sometimes it's just annoying AF. And nothing helps.

The Need For Hearing Protection

If you play percussion (or most other instruments), especially if you often play in some sort of band or ensemble, you need to use hearing protection. A lot of people think, “It only gets loud once in a while, so I'm OK.” But that's not always true, because there can be a cumulative affect from loud noise over time. This can be especially true of students practicing in small school practice rooms that are really more like large closets than a space designed for music.

And it's not just drums or loud rock bands. Symphony orchestra musicians, especially those seated in the middle, or in front of the brass or percussion sections, also report hearing loss over time.

Choices Today

Hearing protection has come a long way from the yellow foam plugs that you roll up and stick in your ears. While reducing the decibels, those also tend to completely muffle the sound you hear, often making it difficult to perform. Today, there are a wide variety of ear plugs with different attenuators/filters that let you hear things normally, but at a reduced decibel level. They are available in a variety of models for different uses and for different levels of protection. While you can spend a lot on custom molded, in ear models, you can also buy a wide variety of noise filters in the $15-50 dollar range. 

Weston in ear units

You can also get the over the ear headphone type protectors.

And they're not just for music and concerts. I now try to protect my hearing whenever I'm subjected to loud noises. I where ear protection when using power tools and the lawnmower. I will also wear them in very noisy environments. I find that my nerves and general wellbeing are better for having worn ear protection.

You only have one pair of ears, so you need to take care of them ignorer to last a lifetime.

Stay safe out there.

~ MB

Deconstruct Yourself™, But Wear Ear Protection


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