Music and Hearing Protection

Music is a primeval force in our lives. It motivates, it stimulates, it relaxes and plenty more. It is also becoming more important than ever as we listen to more music than at any time in history – mainly due to iPods and other portable devices.

Live Music

Concerts & festivals are big business. They are also great fun – as well as a significant investment in leisure.  A few simple considerations for your ears can make a big difference to enjoying live music.

Players

See our section for music professionals below. In short, you MUST wear some sort of hearing protection if you value your ears.

Audience

Rumour has it that The Who is the loudest band in the World – ever. Or was it Led Zeppelin? Whichever, the British seem to have learned their lesson because not only do they poke fun at rock in Spinal Tap, but Wikipedia thinks it is Kiss from the US who literally rock the world. So what are your considerations as a music lover?

  1. Protect your ears for next time – if you are close to the stage or speakers, you could receive your safe sound dose in seconds and permanently damage your ears in less time than it takes to hear the first tune out. Wear hearing protection (or move a few counties away and save the ticket price)
  2. Get good filters – choosing the wrong filter will distort the music you hear. You are looking for filters with “flat attenuation” so that the music sounds the same, just a little quieter
  3. What if….? If you drop your plugs a Glastonbury, you may not want to pick them up, even if you can find them – and yet the music goes on. It is therefore a good idea, if you have custom moulds, to get 2 pairs made at once and take a spare pair, or take a high quality backup pair of instant fit products like Etymotics ER-20 filters.

Music on the Move

iPads, iPhones, Galaxy, Kindles, Surface and so on have changed the way we consume music and video. More of it for longer, in more style, and often at higher volumes (if you are on public transport). Putting a miniature loudspeaker next to your ear could be a recipe for ear-disaster if you don’t keep an eye on your listening habits. In fact, evidence of a “hearing timebomb” is beginning to emerge as a young generation of kids who have been pumping loud music at their delicate ears develops hearing problems beyond their years. Mobile media lovers need to think about:

  1. Volume: Looking after yourself does not have to be a scientific exercise and it is entirely possible to use a personal music device in total safety by being aware of loudness and exposure times. Get some indication of safe volume and exposure times here. If you want to be exact, you can see a hearing healthcare professional for a REM (Real Ear Measurement) test that will tell you exactly how loud your preferred volume is. You may be shocked!
    1. If you listen to music in loud places, invest in a set of “noise isolating” earphones or custom earbud sleeves. These will cut the amount of background noise you hear and that your earphones have to play over (and the sound is better). Note that “noise isolating”, is not the same as “noise cancelling”. Talk to your audio professional for more information.
    2. Start lowering the volume you listen at. One volume notch at a time, try re-acclimatising to lower volumes. This way, you can listen safely for longer and rest your ears for that favourite banging tune (but don’t overdo it even then)
    3. If you need to listen at high volumes to hear the music clearly, find something else to do and give your ears a break
  2. Duration: It is not only the loudness of music that is important – the duration is key too. The longer you listen, the more energy your ears have to absorb. Louder sounds means shorter durations and louder sounds are safer for longer.
    1. Keep an eye on your listening habits and durations
    2. Give your ears a break  from time to time
  3. Comfort: If the ultimate desire is to listen safely for as long as possible, then comfort is important. If your ears are different from the average ear (which they are, since your ears are unique), then the most comfortable earbuds will be custom made just for you.
  4. Sound quality: probably the first thing you think of, earphone and earbud sound quality can make or break your heart (especially if you have forked out for your new ‘phones). Get the best you can out of your set by:
    1. removing any outside noise. A set of earbud sleeves cut out the outside noise, so you are driving your phones less hard, cutting distortion and interfering sounds.
    2. improving perceived frequency response and music quality: again, isolating your music from outside noise gives you a truer, clearer experience. Sometimes the most basic earbuds can respond incredibly well to this simple enhancement.

Music for Professionals

People who live for their music often live by their music: musicians, roadies, producers, sound engineers and so on. If your career depends on your music, a couple of useful tips are below

  1. Quality – get the best quality IEMs and protection you can afford
  2. Protect your ears for next time – if you are close to the stage or speakers, you could receive your safe sound dose in seconds and permanently damage your ears in less time than it takes to hear the first tune out. Wear hearing protection (or move a few counties away and save the ticket price).
  3. Get good filters – choosing the wrong filter will distort the music you hear. You are looking for filters with “flat attenuation” so that the music sounds the same, just a little quieter
  4. What if….? If you drop your plugs a Glastonbury, you may not want to pick them up, even if you can find them – and yet the music goes on. It is therefore a good idea, if you have custom moulds, to get 2 pairs made at once and take a spare pair, or take a high quality backup pair of instant fit products like Etymotics ER-20 filters.

 

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