The subject of hearing conservation in the Music Industry and in Education sometimes does not seem to be given the attention it deserves. As we may well know, exposure to loud music for long periods of time is a serious concern and a hazard not to be taken lightly.
Imagine having a ringing in your head….. all the time? Chronic Tinnitus
Imagine not being able to hear music properly or conversations with friends?
Music Induced Hearing Loss.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states there’s more than 1.1 billion young people at risk from hearing loss, with 40% of these exposed to damaging levels of sound from entertainment. Musicians and DJs are 3.5 times more likely to suffer from hearing loss and 1.5 times more likely to develop Tinnitus than the general population. George Odam, Emeritus Professor at Bath Spa University and Fellow of the Guildhall School of Music has been a champion of this subject for a while. He undertook a research project inquiring into the health of music students. After a one-year pilot study, worrying statistics were found showing that 26% of students claimed to have tinnitus and 17% had hearing loss from audiometric testing. The seriousness of these statistics needs professional medical investigation. Basically, the outcome of too much loud music over time will destroy your hearing, which for anyone who loves and makes music is a disaster!
What you should be aware of is two crucial impact factors. The sound level and your exposure time. Sound is measured in decibels (dB) and it’s important to realise that it is a logarithmic measurement of sound pressure. So, a 3dB increase in sound level is twice as loud. If the volume is twice as loud then you should half your exposure time. Here’s an example: An acoustic drumkit not even being played hard can be approximately 94dB (A). Your safe exposure time at this volume is approximately 1 hour. So, if you increase the sound level by 3dB to 97dB (A) then your safe exposure is now approximately 30 minutes.
Former professional musician Jono Heale, now Director at ACS Custom, explains more:
‘My hearing is permanently damaged from rehearsing and gigging with no protection and I now suffer from Music Induced Hearing Loss and Tinnitus. It’s sad to talk to young musicians at festivals, gigs and MI trade shows who say they already have problems with their hearing in their mid-20’s! We’ve taken sound level readings at venues and sometimes the volume on stage alone is 100dB(A) +. Your safe exposure time here is approximately 15 minutes!’
Wearing earplugs in social or professional music environments has to some extent seemed uncool. However, recently the next generation of music lovers and makers do seem to be more aware of the dangers of being exposed to loud music, especially from the work from the Musicians’ Union, Help Musicians UK and dedicated international hearing protection manufactures like ACS Custom.
There are many different earplugs on the market and you should buy the best that you can afford. Don’t forget this is your hearing you are trying to protect! Some are a universal fit but if you are serious about sound then custom fit is the way to go. The benefit is that they fit your ears perfectly, forming a seal that will not allow any excess sound through. Don’t forget that everybody’s ears are different shapes and sizes so universal fit earplugs won’t always guarantee a proper fit, a specific level of protection and frequency response. Custom moulded earplugs give you the best acoustic seal in the ear canal and you also have a choice of attenuating filters to reduce the volume by different amounts depending on your musical environment. Whether universal or custom fit hearing protection, attenuating high fidelity earplugs are the best for playing and listening to music. Foam earplugs are not as they are an auditory block and you might as well stick your fingers in your ears!
It is now evident that the culture of hearing conservation in the music industry is on the move. However, we still see that this very important subject is not mandatory embedded into the further or higher music education curriculum or even in main stream education in schools for that matter, which is a concern.
But the times they are a-changin’ – and we, with the support of the MI industry, must challenge those working in music education and industry to raise awareness of the effects of exposure to loud music, so that musicians of the future can work in safe environments and play safe now so they are still able to hear tomorrow.