In today’s installment of News You Can’t Use, a review of a 2006 article in the journal Ear & Hearing entitled, “Hearing in non-professional pop/rock musicians.” That’s right, garage band rockers, I’ve got something to say to you. And I’m writing it down because apparently you might not hear me if I told you to your face.
Musicians in the study were evaluated after five years of repeated exposure to loud, intense music. A significant proportion of those who didn’t wear ear protection experienced noticeable hearing loss (6 dB in the 3-8 kHz range). In those who did wear ear protection, there was some hearing loss compared to age- and gender- matched controls, but it was more modest (2.4 dB). Nearly half of the unprotected musicians reported hypersensitivity to sound and/or tinnitus, a persistent and unpleasant ringing, buzzing, whining, screaming, roaring, or clicking sound.
“Thanks, boring old person,” you say to me, “but what about my music and my freedom?” As boring and uncool as it might seem, if you want to continue to be free to hear your music, you better plug up your ears when you plug in your amp. (By the way, orchestral musicians, you tend to have more noise-induced hearing loss than the general population as well and should also consider ear protection.)
Foam and silicone earplugs are inexpensive, readily available, and will provide some protection for your ears. You may feel a little cut off from the outside world, however, kind of like you’re under water. Flanged musician’s earplugs cost a bit more ($10-15) but will provide better sound fidelity: they attenuate the volume evenly over all frequencies. For even better sound fidelity (at significantly higher cost) you can visit an audiologist for custom plugs made specifically for the needs of musicians.
Victoria Rentel, MD (Ohio State Student Health Services)
Ear Hear. 2006 Aug;27(4):321-30.