Protecting Your Ears - Start Now
As budding musicians, probably the most important asset we have is our hearing. And therefore it is vital to take all necessary precautions to protect it. Now I'm sure I'm not alone, but I like my amp cranked all the way up to 11. It just sounds better. However I also want to keep making and enjoying music for the rest of my life.
"loudness has this curious ability to make everything sound good, but don't fall into its trap"
When I was younger, I never thought I'd have any trouble with my hearing and for a while I didn't. But after several years of self inflicted audio abuse, I started to notice a change in my hearing. Conversation was becoming a little more difficult and I started to notice a faint ringing sound in my ears that wouldn't go away. Over time things got worse, the ringing sound got louder and conversations became even more difficult. Unfortunately now, at the age of 31, I wear hearing aids in both ears.
My story is not unique, there are a number of high profile musicians who suffer from tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and/or hearing loss. Will.i.am, Plan B and Chris Martin from Coldplay to name a few. And like myself, they have found strategies to help them cope and to continue making music.
As always, prevention is better than cure, so what can we do?
Did you know that the loudness of a rock concert can reach up to 115 decibels or higher? According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) it only takes 30 seconds at this volume to start causing permanent damage to your hearing. Now I'm not saying that you should just stay at home. Watching the Prodigy live at the o2 in Brixton was one of the most enjoyable, teeth rattling experiences I've ever had. However I was wearing earplugs.
Check out your local music shop and you will be able to find a selection of different earplugs from cheap foam disposable ones, to more expensive ones designed specifically for musicians. The foam ones will do the trick, but they sometimes have the tendency to fall out if not inserted properly. Plus they can make things sound like you are holding your head underwater... The musicians earplugs on the other hand, offer a far more enjoyable experience as they attenuate the frequencies evenly. Basically, they sound clearer. If you are really serious, it's worth investing in some custom made moulded earplugs.
When rehearsing, be aware of your volume. It can be very tempting for everyone to play at maximum loudness when together in a practice room. Loudness has this curious ability to make everything sound good, but don't fall into its trap. If your blistering guitar solo sounds great even when played at a quiet volume, then you know you're on to a winner. Another thing to watch out for, as musicians we often have the inclination to keep nudging up the volume to get 'that feeling' as the practice goes on. This is because over time our ears adjust and normalise the volume. And before you know it, it's face-meltingly loud. Remember to take regular breaks and allow your ears time to recover. Try stepping out of the practice room for 5 minutes every so often. Your ears will thank you.
Drummers, I'm looking at you. You know the crack of a snare drum comes in at around 110 decibels. The same volume as a chainsaw. You're gonna to want to wear earplugs if you are playing an acoustic kit. Or perhaps use some drum muting pads. Or, you know, play quietly. The neighbours will appreciate it. 'Beast mode' is not appropriate for practising at home, save that for the stage!
"there are a number of high profile musicians who suffer from tinnitus"
One final point that's worth noting. Most of us have iPhones and with that, the ability to carry around our whole record collection in our back pockets and deliver it directly into our ear holes. It's the best invention since sliced bread. But it may well be one of the reasons that adolescent hearing loss is on the rise. The same rules above apply; keep the volume to a reasonable level and take a brake from time to time.
So that about wraps things up. If you are gigging or rehearsing, plug up. If you are practicing at home, turn it down. Look after yourselves.
www.rockademy.co.uk - Thanks for reading, please share the love by sharing this blog... Andrew Ford
Music for meditation and yoga - Innerpieces.co.uk
New album out now - https://innerpieces.bandcamp.com/album/within