You Only Get One Set Of Ears In Your Lifetime, Don't Damage Them
I was recently at a gig and had to leave early as the front of house volume was so loud it was starting to physically hurt my ears. I don't mean to be dramatic but ears can hurt if exposed to prolonged loud sound pressure levels. When your ears start to hurt from loud sound it is very similar to staring directly at the sun until your eyes start to force shut with that 'burned in' coloured spot effect appearing in our vision.... the dangers are very similar to that but with your ears.
It's Only Sound - How Can It Do Harm?
Guitarist Pete Townshend caused himself hearing loss and Tinnitus. Tinnitus is a condition that causes people to be extremely sensitive to everyday low level sounds from things like the TV or radio. It also causes people to hear a high pitched ringing sound in their head that can be more noticeable in the evening when trying to sleep. Tinnitus is caused when the tiny hairs within the inner ear are damaged by loud and often prolonged sound pressure levels. When these hairs are damaged they can never repair themselves. For decades Pete has been educating aspiring musicians to take care of their hearing as not doing so will cause noise induced hearing loss.
Prevention - Steps To Take For Live Musicians
- Wear ear plugs when rehearsing and performing live. Regular performers will already be aware of that ringing sound in their ears after performing in a loud environment. Live performers should at least own a set of ear plugs. Take the precaution and use them when you need to.
- Be aware of the volume when working in recording studio environments. Excessive volume is not your friend when mixing anyway. Having studio monitors cranked up to 11 will usually mean you are not hearing your mixes back clearly as your room and something called the Fletcher Munson Curve is starting to effect your judgement... so it's best to protect your ears and help your music by turning down your monitors.
Prevention - Steps For Non-Musicians
- You know yourself and your pain threshold. If you are in an audience and feel pain in your inner ears then move to a different part of the venue or take a break from the show. Again I recommend ear plugs. Most legitimate venues should have ear plugs available.
- Headphones at loud volumes. Ear bud headphones can be dangerous as they generally reproduce high frequencies which are fired extremely close to the inner ear. I recommend over ear headphones as they reproduce a better overall spectrum of sound whilst sitting outside (over) the ears. Over ear headphones reproduce bass a lot better which provides listeners with a better experience of music thus hopefully not feeling the need to turn their mp3 players up to full.
Be safe with your hearing. Use common sense.