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How to prevent hearing loss as a musician

Cameron, in Community news
Oct 14, 2020 | 5 min read

As musicians, our most valuable tool is our hearing. Our ears are sensitive, and we often underestimate how easy it is to damage them. Here are some essential facts and sound advice on how to prevent hearing loss.

In a cross-sectional study, 125 professional musicians with at least five years of work experience underwent hearing checkup. Almost half of them exhibited hearing loss in at least one ear.  

Musicians are often exposed to abnormally high sound levels. Musicians who deal with loud noises on a daily basis are four times more likely to suffer from Tinnitus and permanent hearing damage. Continuous exposure to noise levels of 85dB, equivalent to playing a violin or a busy street, is already considered unsafe. Loud sounds that cause pain to the ear are usually between 115 and 140 dB, which is equivalent to the peak of a rock concert or an ambulance siren.

Decibel levels: the numbers you should know

A decibel level of 0db is total silence, 30dB is equivalent to a soft whisper, and 60db a regular conversation. Anything louder than 85dB can cause hearing damage with prolonged exposure, and noises above 120dB can cause immediate damage

This is a handy decibel level reference:

Chart of decibel level references

And for musical noise:

Musical NoiseLoudness
Rock music peak150 dB
Symphonic music peak120-137 dB
Timpani & Bass drum rolls106 dB
Trombone85-114 dB
French horn90-106 dB
Clarinet92-103 dB
Cello82-92 dB
Violin84-103 dB
Chamber music in small auditorium75-85 dB
Normal piano practice60-70 dB

As you can see, most instruments fall into the Very Loud category.

How to protect your ears

Here are some tips to protect your ears and prevent hearing loss:

1. Get informed

Learn about the levels of noise and repercussions of long exposure to these levels – especially the sound coming from the instrument you play. 

2. Use a decibel meter 

Using a decibel meter is a great way to see if your surrounding noise levels are safe. The Soundbrenner Core comes with a built-in dB meter that accurately measures the decibel levels of your environment, so you can check whether you need to protect your ears.

Core with teal strap adjusting amp settings

This feature checks your surroundings 24/7 (without storing any information) to ensure that you aren’t exposing yourself to harmful sounds. The Core will alert you when you may be at risk for hearing damage. This tool is indispensable for musicians, who are constantly bombarded with sounds throughout the day.

3. Wear earplugs

There are many forms of hearing protection available in the market, ranging from in-ear monitors (IEMS) that double as stage monitors, over-ear headphones for drummers that are designed to block out harsh high-end frequencies from cymbals.

Concert earplugs come with the Soundbrenner Core and Core Steel.

Concert earplugs, like the ones that come with the Soundbrenner Core, are designed to filter out excessive bass and treble frequencies while still allowing you to enjoy the music at reasonable volumes. This has the added benefit of making concerts sound better and less distorted, since the earplugs act as a physical EQ to reduce harsh frequencies. On average, you can expect most hearing protection products to block out anywhere from 25 to 32db of background noise.

Both the Soundbrenner Core and Soundbrenner Core Steel include ear plugs.

4. Don’t stand directly in front of speakers

Avoid having your amp, PA or stage monitors pointed directly at you. Instead, try standing behind the source of the sound. Use the decibel meter on the Soundbrenner Core to find the quietest spot away from the amp. This will allow you to play at the same volume (meaning the audience gets to hear you clearly) without being exposed to as loud of a noise level.

5. Take regular breaks

It’s also important to take regular breaks during practice sessions or rehearsals in order to avoid excessive stress on your ears. Use the timer on your Soundbrenner Core to remind yourself to stop and rest every 1-2 hours.

Did you find this article helpful? Share it with your bandmates!

Soundbrenner is a company dedicated to help musicians stay focused on what truly matters: their music. By creating innovative devices, such as Soundbrenner Pulse and Core, our goal is to deliver the best possible practice experience for musicians. Click here to find out more.

Got a question about Soundbrenner wearables? Reach out to us at [email protected], we’re happy to help!

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