We human beings are a strange race. How often do we fail to take care of the things which are most precious to us?
For a musician, perhaps our most precious tool is our ears. Yet how many musicians take seriously the protection of this most delicate part of our body. Few people realise just how delicate the mechanism in the ear is. It is probably the only part of the body that can be broken by something it doesn’t come into physical contact with (apart from if you stare at the Sun for too long). I did a city and guilds qualification in painting and decorating and the first thing we were taught was how to care for our tools. We were taught that as your brushes and other equipment were your livelyhood, you kept them in pristine condition.
Yet when was the last time a music teacher told you of the damage you can cause to your ears by repeated exposure to loud noise. Researchers who study hearing loss in the workplace have found that a person who is exposed to noise levels at 85 decibels or higher for a prolonged period of time is at risk for hearing loss. For this reason, these workers are required to wear hearing protectors, such as earplugs or earmuffs, while they are on the job. Many devices that children use today have noise levels much higher than 85 decibels. For example, an MP3 player at maximum level is roughly 105 decibels. That’s 100 times more intense than 85 decibels! Scientists recommend no more than 15 minutes of unprotected exposure to sounds that are 100 decibels. In addition, regular exposure to sounds at 110 decibels for more than one minute risks permanent hearing loss. So just for guidance, how loud is 110db? Well 105db is the level of an iPOD turned up to full volume. As decibels are measured on a lograythmic scale, this means that 110db is five times louder. Here is some idea of what sort of noise is generated by various things we commonly encounter
- Normal conversation: 60-65dB
- A busy street: 75-85dB
- Lawn mower/heavy traffic: 85dB
- Forklift truck: 90dB
- Hand drill: 98dB
- Heavy lorry about seven metres away: 95-100dB
- Motorbikes: 100dB
- Cinema: some films regularly top 100dB during big action scenes
- Disco/nightclub/car horn: 110dB
- MP3 player on loud: 112dB
- Chainsaw: 115-120dB
- Rock concert/ambulance siren: 120dB
Now the tendency we have is to say “Well I went to a club last week and my hearing is fine so these guidelines are nonsense”. What few of us realise is that we are often unaware that our hearing is being damaged, as it will be in the high frequency ranges we first see deteriation and we don’t notice this immediately. It is only when we have a hearing test that the damage is quantified. If you are involved in music production, you will often find that the first time you realise is when you do mixes and people tell you there is too much treble on it. Like many things it is a personal decision whether you want to wear ear protection, but it is vital that you understand the risks you are running.
There are all manner of modern ear protection that is designed for musicians and will reduce the risk across a full range of frequencies. As a professional studio, we stock high end protection specifically designed for musicians. These are not cheap, but should seriously be considered if you want to continue to enjoy playing and listening to music.
Here are some of the Custom Earplugs models we have on offer.
Proguard music – New Design | £149.95 | Custom MP3/iPOD Fleximonitors
Proguard Custom Fleximonitors Mark 2 | £262.80 |
Of course, if you can’t afford custom fit earplus there are cheaper options such as the Lin-Ear PR20, which will offer a good degree of protection
Proguard Lin-Ear PR20 Music Earplug | £14.95 |
At Mill Hill Music Complex, we have all of these earplugs in stock. If you are passing through for a rehearsal or recording session, why not pick some up. It may be the best decision you’ve ever made.