Hearing Health Facts for the Sound Professional and Musicians
Excessive exposure to loud sounds can cause irreversible damage to to the sensorineural hair cells inside the cochlea. If your family has a history of hearing loss (including age-related loss), it may increase your personal susceptibility to hearing damage from nose.
- Degradation of frequency resolution recognition and ability to discriminate tonal richness and subtleties
- Distortion of frequencies and decibel levels; sounds seem either too soft or too loud and what you hear is no longer what your audience hears
- Difficulty hearing people speak to you in places with background noise - you may hear them, but you can't understand what they are saying
- Increased stress and fatigue
Effects of Ear Damage from Excessive Sound Exposure
The result is commonly experienced as a temporary hearing loss (or temporary threshold shift), which may become permanent with repeated exposures overtime. Recent studies suggest that every single occurrence may weaken vital neural structure in the auditory system.
If you notice a change in your hearing ability, it is important to have it checked by a licensed ENT or otologist, so it can be diagnosed and properly treated. There are many causes for hearing loss – some are fully treatable, some can be a sign of a more serious health issue, while others - such as noise-induced hearing loss - can be managed through physician and audiologist recommendations.
Click graphic and panels below to learn more about the NIOSH Safe Exposure Guide and hearing health facts"
- For live audience productions, mix without headphones – not only for sound quality purposes but also to help ensure a more accurate perspective of the decibel levels of your audience's environment.
- If you know you have hearing loss, factor it into your mix. Avoid turning your mix console into your personal amplifier (or hearing aid).
- Avoid mixing at loud dB levels.
- Monitor and manage loud dB level environments – Use the dB(A) weighting to manage exposure times to levels that rise above 85 dB, particularly for the 500 to 8kHz hearing range. Couple dB(A) with dB(C) weightings to assess dB levels across the broader spectrum of low and high frequencies – dB(C) can be most effective for measuring sound peaks and where loud low frequencies might be distorting perceptions of high frequency decibel levels.
In certain live sound mix situations, wearing even the best high fidelity hearing protection in both ears may prove too inhibitive for mixing accuracy. In those situations, consider compromises that will still give you some limited hearing protection -
- Wear hearing protection on one ear so your other ear is free for critical listening – to equally protect both ears, frequently alternate which ear you protect and which one you expose.
- Shorten your exposure time to levels above 85 dB for your unprotected ear(s) using the NIOSH guidelines for sound safety.
- Wear hearing protection in both ears between sets and even songs, and immediately before and after performances. (Crowd noise by itself often can reach more than 105 dB in many concert and club environments.)