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orchestra players and hearing loss

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by velvetkevorkian, Nov 24, 2004.

  1. is there any orchestral players out there who wear ear plugs on a regular basis when they play? it's something i've been considering for a while- one of my my right ear is definitely tinnitis'ed, partially from sitting with it facing the brass section (plumbers! :mad: ). i always wear plugs when i do metal gigs or go to clubs etc. anyone got any sage advice to impart?
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    How many right ears have you got - should we be calling you "Four Ears"!!?? ;)
  3. I play mainly jazz/fusion at onstage levels which couldn't remotely be described as excessive BUT I have just experienced total deafness in both ears for over 9 weeks which is an experience I would not wish on my worst enemy.

    The problem now having been just about sorted,(still awaiting an NHS appointment with EN&T) I will NEVER rehearse or gig without protection again. I'm now using a set of Etymotic Research ER-20s which seem to be doing the trick. I would wholeheartedly recommend to EVERYONE that they do the same.
  4. janetreno


    Nov 11, 2004
    Maybe you should wear an ear plug in your right ear during performances where the brass section has a large part.

    I actually went to an ENT yesterday afternoon because I have been experiencing hearing loss as well. Constant hardcore and metal shows are where my loss originated. Basically all they could do for me was prescribe some ear drops and suggest less standing in front of huge amps.
  5. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    I play in a college orchestra and I wear an ear plug in my right ear as I am standing right by the brass players. It is an earplug that I sometimes take partially out if the brass are not playing. Think its 15db. I would not be hesitant at all about wearing a ear plug. My set of custom ear plugs even showed advertising pics of orchestral players using them so they must be selling to orchestral players. Only have one set of ears, and I am doing my best to keep the tinnitus and hearing loss away. Got for it!
  6. hahaha not got a clue what i was thinking when i typed that, mate. :confused:
    yeah, my tinnitus is really from excessive thrashing, but the damn plumbers aren't doing it any favours. i think i'll go see my doc about a set of custom plugs...
    cheers guys!
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes - I got a bit of tinnitus in my left ear,playing in Jazz bands at relatively low volume - I'm pretty sure it was caused by standing next to the drummer close to one of the larger cymbals.

    I know a lot of Jazz drummers who wear ear plugs all the time - even when playing all-acoustic...:meh:
  8. Cymbals can cause tinnitus, but they usually do not produce enough decibels in acoustic jazz setup to cause actual hearing loss. I read an article about this recently, and according to that the main cause of hearing loss of drummers ( and those who stand near them ) is the snare.
    We must ask our drummers to play more with brushes, I guess...and to be careful with those rim shots.

  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I dunno...I think my time sitting next to Bob Moses' ride cymbal might have loosened up some stuff up in there.. :eek:

    I used to play with Danny Gottlieb on occasion, and he never struck me as a particularly loud drummer, but sometimes his ride cymbal would do a number on me. Once he said, "Am I killing you with that ride cymbal?" I said, "Yeah, but in a really nice way". Must be a NY thing. At any rate, I'd never have suggested to either of those guys to use brushes.

    Gotta be careful, though. I watched Charlie Haden, wearing earplugs, visibly wincing, while the very quiet and tasty Billy Higgins played next to him.
  10. Yea guys, dont mess with deafness. I had a colestiaoma (whatever) and for those of you that have no idea what I'm talking about it is when skin grows into cavities around your ear and skin corrupts the inner/middle ear. I have a 60% hearing loss in my left ear, and guys its incredible how much worse I am because of that hearing loss. I had my coach tell me that I would be in a complete other orchestra if I could hear better. Don't use ear plugs, at least in orchestral playing. And anyway, how would you check your blending with other players and the group as a whole. Remember, there is no such thing as one bass player, only the bass section.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    You can get special "musician's" earplugs which don't block everything, but just attenuate volume to levels which are not damaging.
  12. as i understand it, any ringing of the ear is actual permanent damage, even if it goes away afterwards. its just a slow buildup of effects. anyway, i have permanent tinnitus, so i wore a plug in the right one this weekend at rehearsals, and will probably continue doing so. it is kinda hard to hear yourself, but i'm gonna try and get some better plugs. i can hear the rest of the orchestra fine.
    tata folks
  13. I got a pair of fitted earplugs with 15db attenuation at my local hearing center and I'm not sure how I ever lived without them. They don't have that "underwater" feeling I got with the cheap foamies. As mentioned in a previous post, they just turn the volume down on everything. I shopped around and found a doctor who did mine for $100 (fitting and attenuator).
    I have to disagree with a previous post about not being able to hear yourself in the orchestral mix while wearing plugs. A lot of Piano tuners are using musicians plugs while tuning and voicing which requires a lot more acute hearing than knowing whether or not you are blowing the violas away. :D
  14. k, I play 90% of the time in orchestras, along with other gigs in jazz groups and I use ear plugs for that reason..damn spitoon players :spit: . I use a pair of musicians ear plugs, custom made to fit the shape of my ear canal. I picked the filter with a 15db cut, can still hear the music well enough because the filter will allow most sound to pass. I still can hear myself, ( actually it seems to accentuate the lower frequencies) better with them in, and cuts the higher more damaging higher pitches. IMHO, anyone who plays out reguarly, should wear some form of ear plugs. Music is about hearing..isn't it?
  15. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Musicians' ear plugs are absolutely a good idea. I know a lot of veteran musicians who have suffered some form of hearing damage. I'm talking jazz players here, not thrash metal heads. Just last week I was at a master class where a couple of veteran players made sure the class of mostly university age students got the message that a working career in music can and will damage your hearing if you're not hip to the dangers and do something about it.

    I spent about 15 years with an R&B band in which our rehearsal space was a small basement room. I usually placed myself near the drummer -- a considerate, intelligent person; not a neanderthal -- and those freaking cymbals absolutely did some kind of damage to my left ear. I have something like a noise-gate effect in that ear, where I get distortion when the sound gets above a certain level; sometimes there's a bit of pain associated with it.

    The horn players in that group -- up to three saxes, a trombone, sometimes trumpet -- are loud and absolutely capable of damaging your hearing if the physical space isn't right. The trombonist just got a beautiful new horn -- totally divine sound out of that thing, I looooove trombone -- but she has already accidentally hurt me a few times with "splats" that were not considerately placed in space. In other words, she splatted in my face and it hurt.

    Don't mess with your hearing. Get the plugs, no question. You don't have to use them all the time, but they will be there when you need them.
  16. Get the special kind of plugs that just quiet things down, not the kind you wear to mow the grass. I played a couple terms in a university orchestra where I was directly behind the french horns. Talk about suck! I could never hear anything but horn. I couldn't even hear myself or the other seven basses... :rolleyes:
  17. lhoward


    Apr 27, 2003
    Western NY State
    I've also developed some tinnitus in my left ear in the last few years. The drummer is on my left side 99% of the time, and, initially, it was a subtle change since I've always tried to be careful of my hearing. I've worked with this same drummer in a sax led quartet with a female vocalist for 80-85% of my gigs over the last few years. I learned a couple years ago that he has hearing problems related to prior military service. He manages to cover up very well, but over time, you could tell there is a problem. Even though other band members, leader included, have talked to him, I don't believe he hears well enough to realize when his volume has substantially increased. But he's a great drummer and we otherwise have a great time; a fun group to be in. We do songs from the 'great American songbook' and jazz standards.

    I used earplugs for a while and considered getting fitted ear protection. But I recently found a product which is made by a maker of fitted musicians' ear protection. The price was only $15/pair and is basically a "one-fits-all" version of his fitted product. If anyone wants to check them out, here's the link: http://www.earlove.net/index1.html

    I've used them for the past three months and I think they help alot. However, I also still carry foam earplugs to use if I'm around any excessive volume situations or where the band doesn't seem to have a clue how valuable good hearing is. Even if they're good players, I usually won't hang around too long.
  18. pat.p


    Nov 20, 2004
    Poland, Poznań
    I'm looking for earplugs like that. How can I find them? ( I mean something like "custom" made)

  19. Pat:

    I use this brand. I think this is what your looking for? www.musiciansearplugs.com/

  20. I've had some mild tinnitis for about 2 yrs. and thanks to using plugs for the higher energy gigs, it has just about completely cleared up. The good news is if you give your ears a break, they will get better most of the time.

    I use Hearos . There are a few different kinds from the super cheapy foam plugs to the much better ones that are a nearly uniform -12Db cut across the spectrum. I also have some heavier duty -27Db (heavier treble cut) for use if I get stuck next to someone with a full stack.

    The Hearos are pretty comfy and made of very pliable rubber with an internal cartridge (-12Db model) similar to what comes in the more expensive custom fit variety. You can actually adjust the level of attenuation by pushing them further in or pulling them out slightly. I frequently customize my ears depending on where the loudest sources are. The ones I use most often were well under $20.00 and I got them at Guitar Center.

    Someday, I hope to play with just ensembles that maintain a proper "Chamber music" level but until then, the Hearos are as important equipment as my strings. Don't go out there without protection!