Hearing Loss and Ear Plugs

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Boplicity, Jul 28, 2000.

  1. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    At the suggestion of Will C., I am pulling this topic from another thread. Will and I both feel it might benefit some musicians here who do not use ear plugs.

    I have done irreparable damage to my ears and I DID use ear plugs. But I'd probably be stone deaf if I hadn't used them. As it is, I have permanent tinnitis. What is that? I'll tell you...it is a permanent high frequency ringing in my ears twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It never stops. What I have to do is try to "cover" it up by running an electric fan or always having a TV or CD-player on.

    How did it come about? Well I was in a heavy metal band that rehearsed at full volume and played at full volume, so hours and hours of aural assalt added up unrelentingly and insidiously. I'm talking about two Marshall stacks at full tilt and my bass stack at full tilt, plus the drums being pounded at max to compete with all our sonic blasting.

    I wore earplugs. I had to or my head would ache. I used Sonic II plugs, the ones that come in the nifty plastic carrying case. Anyway, the others in the band, refused to use plugs. They believed that the plugs were "so NOT cool." Not cool looking. Not cool for blocking out damaging frequencies of sound.

    Here's the deal though. High frequencies ( two distorted guitars) damage in the short run, but damage worse if the high levels are sustained over hours. And the damage is permanent. Once you have tinnitis, there is no road back.

    In short, if you must play in that kind of environment, use the BEST earplugs you can afford. Cotton just doesn't do the trick. And seriously question the need to rehearse at "eleven" on the Marshalls all the time. Turn that equipment down, for crying out loud! If one musician turns up, then the others have to turn up to be heard. What you get is each one playing at max. For what? So you can be heard a block away?

    Take care of your ears. They are a musician's best friends. Jason Oldsted
  2. rcrimm

    rcrimm Commercial User

    Jun 20, 2000
    Meridian, MS USA
    Customer Service, Peavey Electronics
    Every musician should heed Jason's advice. As musicians, our hearing is one of our most important tools. Once it's gone, it's gone.

    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by JasonOldsted:

    How did it come about? Well I was in a heavy metal band that rehearsed at full volume and played at full volume, so hours and hours of aural assalt added up unrelentingly and insidiously. I'm talking about two Marshall stacks at full tilt and my bass stack at full tilt, plus the drums being pounded at max to compete with all our sonic blasting.


    I have also damaged my hearing, from years of playing without ear plugs. I am lucky that my case of tinnitus is very mild, along with a huge dip in my hearing at about 3k.
    Obviously, Jason's case was extreme. His band was so loud that he damaged his hearing even though he used ear plugs. The point here is that you should use ear plugs, but they may not save you.

    The best advice for any musician is TURN IT DOWN!!! Your band will sound better, your audience will appreciate it, your sound man will appreciate it, and you won't have to live the rest of your life with a high pitched scream inside your head.

  3. RG


    May 11, 2000
    central Illinois
    I too have abused my ears over the years and now I use ear plugs when I am exposed to high volume. I have tried many different kinds and still search for the perfect pair. I've considered going to a hearing aid shop to possibly be fitted for a pair. Has anyone done this? Any advice ?

    the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
  4. hell_awaits


    May 2, 2000
    good topic.

    I'm the only one in my band that uses ear plugs on a regular basis. My guitarist refuses to wear them until he thinks we sound flawless. Unfortunately, I'm the minority, when I suggest that it's possible to sound tight, even when using ear plugs.

    Fashion compliance, social disease, bid for direction, aiming to please, follow the status quo for the day, never a willing effort to change.-Brother Inferior
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I wear custom fitted plugs on a regular basis. I can't think of a more important piece of gear for working (or rehearsing, for that matter) musicians. Consider these two points: 1: *every* time you leave a venue and your ears are ringing you have done *permanent* damage to your hearing. The ringing might go away, but the damage is done. 2: hearing damage is *cumulative*! that's right, you chip away at your hearing piece by piece, just like you would a boulder. When you consider that all of us get such an extreme ammount of joy from music ( I think life would literally be a living hell without it), I can't think why anyone would not want to protect their hearing. I can't urge you enough!

    Groove is Everything
    Jon Packard

    also try: www.hearnet.com
    Bruno1950, DrZ, LilyT and 3 others like this.
  6. sikblades


    Mar 24, 2000
    I have a pair of the custom molded earplugs and use them all of the time. And not just when I'm playing. They are great when you go to see other bands or are in very loud clubs.

    The custom formed ones are very small and fit far inside the ear. They are hardly visible from the outside, and are neutral in color so they handle the "don't look cool" problem.

    They do take a little getting used to, but are well worth the money and time to protect yourself.
    MBeanBass and Big Shrek like this.
  7. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    This is one of the most important threads I've seen here. My wife is in charge of the Audiology Department of a major hospital. She has seen downbeat and grammy award winning players who balk at the $125.00 or so that a custom pair of earplugs cost. Tjhe real question is how much is your hearing and your career worth?

    Do not go to a hearing aid dealer. Go to an auduilogist and get an "audiogram." This will tell you just where your hearing is now, a baseline, so to speak. Spend the 125 for the ER-15's or ER-25 earplugs and then get your hearing checked yearly.

    Additionally, think of your amplifier as a stage monitor. Play at a low volume, let the PA do the rest for the audience. You'll also find that you feel better the next day. Loud sounds also cause your body stress.

    BTW, Jason based on your Magazine" thread.
    Besides being an "ask The Pro" on this great site I am also the Associate Editor and columnist for Bass Frontiers Magazine (www.bassfrontiers.com). Feel free to email me with your suggestions. Additionally, many of our interviews are done by fans who submit them for publication. So wew are open to your suggestions and committment to seeing these artists profiled
  8. gweimer


    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    When I was a full-time musician, my mother was always after me to make sure I wasn't going deaf. What she didn't understand was that I was in a band that was really more interested in the sound off the front of the stage than on it. We actually had the sound levels reasonable on stage, and let the P.A. handle the real work in front of us. It wasn't quiet on stage, by any means, but we weren't cranked; we could actually talk to each other loudly during songs (usually we called each other names and ran off). One guitarist we had insisted on blasting his amp, so his cabinet was turned to the wall. I got in the habit of wearing one Sonic II in my left ear; I was on the far right of the stage, and could never hear the backup vocals. Putting the earplug in helped me hear the stage monitor, and it blocked the immediate volume of the amps. In the end, I'm glad I did it (my wife stills claims I'm deaf, but...); I never heard our lead player live in over a year (which wasn't always a bad thing eek.gif ), but I've never had the kinds of problems I hear from others. Everyone has said the same thing I'll say; put your ego aside, and take care of your hearing. It's a bigger tool than any guitar will ever be.
  9. 6-stringer

    6-stringer Guest

    Feb 5, 2000
    What I have heared about the custom fitted earplugs is that they don't kill the sound, they just take it down a few notches.Is this correct? I am really concerned about my hearing. I play with a jam band, so I have to HEAR everything perfectly. The little foam ones make that impossibe. So right now, I'm not protecting my ears at all. Any info on custom plugs would be nice.
    Big Shrek likes this.
  10. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    Mike D

    are the custom ones the only ones worth using? I dont want a false sense of security. Which ones are recommended for which application?

    NB I am going off line till next Friday soon so I will bookmarh this url. Thanks in anticipation.

    Say something clever and someone steals it

  11. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    The custom plugs *do* sound great. They were designed to attenuate sound evenly accross the entire freq spectrum. Do they succeed? A qualified yes. There is a *bit* (I stress, a little bit) of high end loss, but I soundcheck without my plugs, then put them in and it doesn't bother me. A nice side benefit is that I usually end up hearing the bass better!

    Groove is Everything
    Jon Packard http://listen.to/Jon.Packard
    Big Shrek, doctorwholittle and TalHaz like this.
  12. funkastorious


    May 26, 2000
    Mpls, MN.
    First off, if you're NOT playing with plugs, you should forego your next gear purchase and get. Yes, us musicians do a great job at pleasing people's ear, but we do a better job at damaging them.

    Nearly 99% of hearing aid stores offer "Musician's Plugs" or "Filtered Ear Attenuators". They are typically offerred in a 9, 15, or 25db cut. That means they cut 9, 15, or 25 decibels off of the sound your ears pickup. The 25db are comparable to sticking your fingers inside your ear REALLY tight. If you're playing loud clubs, 25 would probably be the way to go, but 15s (IMO) are more realistic to wear.

    Yes, you can buy off the shelf plugs, but getting custom fit is the way to go. The audiologist puts a little cottom ball with a stings tied to it (no jokes here) into your ear. They them fill it with a squirt of goop (usually smells like bubble gum) into your ear so it seems like you are underwater. It takes a few minutes to set and then your involvement is complete.

    My ear canals are pretty long, so I cut a tiny bit of the ends off to make them more comfy. Custom plugs take a LONG time to get used to, but I find the sound is more enjoyable (especially, being a bass player) because that extra "noise" is cut off the top.

    The circuitry is swappable, so you can exchange b/w 9, 15, and 25s depending upon your application.

    Also, if you want to get fancy, you can use these impressions to make in-ear monitors (which I don't like) or a customized eq setting for what you want to hear.

    Sorry for the ramble, but you can either play with plugs now or lose your hearing. You decide which is important.

    [This message has been edited by funkastorious (edited July 30, 2000).]
  13. Scok


    Apr 20, 2000
    This is a great topic. I'm suprised it hasn't come up before.

    I was considering buying custom made plugs, (I use foam ones now) but now I'm sold.

    Anybody who dosen't wear plugs is an idiot!

    Yes I do mean to insult people, if you love music so much, why wreck your most important tool.

    Bruno1950 and Big Shrek like this.
  14. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by CS:
    Mike D

    are the custom ones the only ones worth using? I dont want a false sense of security. Which ones are recommended for which application?

    without a doubt. And Funkastorius is right on about the 15 and 25 db cut range. The plugs are made by Entomitic Research. They are probably available at either hearing aid dealers or audiologists. I would go to the audiologist. hearing aid dealers are licensed to sell hearing aids. Audiologists have either a Masters or Doctorate in diagnosing hearing/noise related problems.
    As I mentioned in an earlier post, get an audiogram to see where your hearing is NOW. Every year get it checked so you can see if you are doing any damage to your hearing.

    Big Shrek and doctorwholittle like this.
  15. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Just found this thread tonight. Good food for thought.

    I have some hearing loss(no idea how much) from my teen years playing in a garage with no ear protection, and I recently also had a drummer who had no volume control(he's no longer with us).

    I use foam plugs occasionally, but it sounds as if I need to check into the custom filters. Are they electronic or something?

    I have lost some high frequencies, I can no longer hear the high pitched squeal of a TV set or flourescent lighting - what is that, around 15khz?

    check out my basses on my gear page! http://www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/robson/1174/music/gear.html

    the fabric of reality is woven from the threads of our dreams...
    bill longshort

  16. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    East Bay, CA
    Everybody has given great advice here. I've been using the cheapo foam plugs or wadded up paper when the volume gets hairy but I ought to look into some custom jobbies. Pete Townshend of The Who, one of the foremost hearing-impaired musicians around, has said that he believes his hearing loss was caused more by high-volume headphone usage than by the Who's (in)famously loud shows. Since you can't
    wear earplugs with headphones, try to keep the volume down! Also, I seem to remember reading something about tinnitus being related to chronic strain of muscles in the head and neck, and improving with osteopathic or cranio-sacral therapy as well as other more holistic, hands-on approaches. I've also seen a pamphlet on various nutritional treatments for tinnitus. That's not to say we shouldn't protect our ears-but maybe there can are some effective alternative treatments out there. Anybody else heard about these?
    Big Shrek likes this.
  17. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    To Winston, it is odd that you mentioned that tinnitis may be related to head and neck strain. When I was in those heavy metal bands, I did used to bang my head up and down as was so fashionable back then. I don't know if anybody does it anymore. But back then, the cool thing was to lean over your bass or guitar and jerk your head up and down to make your hair fly or twirl your head, so your hair would go in a circle ala Sepultura. Sometimes the next day, my neck would ache and be stiff. Well now, years later, my neck still bothers me often. I bet it was that supercool "head banging", but I also believe it was the high volume levels we endured. Also I was find of and continue to be fond of playing a walkman at high volume and I've read that is very damaging. Jason Oldsted
  18. penstock


    Aug 10, 2000
    If you play in a band where you have to hear everything, try using wadded up toilet paper instead of earplugs. They dampen the sound but don't kill it. I use earplugs when I play bass, but I also play trumpet in a ska band and can't where them when I play it. It makes me sound like i'm playing a kazoo and I can't tell the volume I'm playing at. Playing with toilet paper in my ears works perfect though. The downside though, is that I am sure I am still getting some damage done to my ears, but its a lot better than wearing nothing at all.
  19. Funkster

    Funkster Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Wormtown, MA
    I went to a audiologist and had custom fit ones made it was the best thing that I have done, not only for playing but for going out to clubs and hearing other bands.
    I highly recommend it.
    xnewyorka likes this.
  20. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    Mike D thanks for the reply sorry I did not see this earlier
    I have checked my plugs and they are 25's. I will look into custom plugs.
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    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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