Hearing is a precious sense that allows us to enjoy the beauty of music.
However, exposure to loud sounds, such as those found in music lessons, concerts, gigs, and recording environments, can lead to hearing damage and potentially permanent hearing loss.
This article highlights the significance of wearing hearing protection in these settings and explores different styles of protection available to students, musician’s and music lovers alike and their costs.
UNDERSTANDING THE RISK
Noise or Music Induced Hearing Loss is a growing concern, particularly among musicians, DJs and nightclub goers. The World Health Organization reports that 43 million people between the ages of 12 and 35 already suffer from hearing loss, with half of this attributed to exposure to unsafe sound levels from personal audio devices or amplified music.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING YOUR HEARING
Sound is an integral part of our lives, especially for those who enjoy listening to, learning an instrument or creating their own music. Taking care of our hearing should be a top priority.
It’s crucial to dispel the misconception that hearing protection, such as foam earplugs, dulls the clarity of music.
The key lies in using high-fidelity earplugs that reduce volume while maintaining sound quality.
Additionally, being aware of exposure times and potential dangers is essential.
Even at volumes as low as 100 dB(A), commonly experienced in nightclubs and music bars, safe exposure time is limited to approximately 15 minutes.
THE DIFFERENT STYLES OF HEARING PROTECTION
Below you’ll find the various types of hearing protection available to you. There are of course many variations and places to purchase ear protection from other than the ones linked below.
If you have any further questions please feel free to message me on my contact page.
1) Ear Defenders: These are easily worn and have very good isolation and noise reduction properties. Most commonly they are used in an industrial setting whilst using and operating heavy machinery. They can be very big and bulky to wear, and a little bit unfashionable in social situations such as band practices and gigs.
They are bad for listening to music or hearing people speak in noisy environments because of the massive reduction in sound from the great isolation they provide. You will get a loss in charity in mid and high frequencies.
You can find these in any hardware store and even some drum brands make their own branded pairs. Starting in a low cost price range for as little as £4.
Ear Defenders 27.6 dB SNR – £3.99 – Screwfix.co.uk
OX Standard Ear Defenders SNR 25DB – £5.99 – Amazon.co.uk
Vic Firth DB22 Ear Defender Isolation Headphones – DrumShack.co.uk – £22
2) Foam Earplug: These are the most commonly available (Often for free or at a small cost at studios and venues) they are very cheap, they can fit mostly everybody and are reasonably comfortable to have in your ears.
When properly fitted they can reduce the sound levels by up to 30dB(A) You will lose a lot of sound clarity in mid and high frequencies.
Foam earplugs are a total auditory block, so they are not great for listening to music or hearing people speak in noisy environments such as rehearsals, lessons or concerts.
Foam earplugs are reasonably cheap to purchase but you’ll often have to buy them in bulk but are widely available.
Boots Foam Ear Plugs – 20 Pairs – £7.20 – Boots.com
Howard Leight Laser Lite Soft Foam Earplugs – SNR 35db – 10 pairs (27p a unit) – £2.69 – Amazon.co.uk
Disposable Foam Ear Plugs Box of 200 – £15.99 – Zoro.co.uk
3) High-fidelity Earplugs: These are very affordable, universally fitting earplugs that are designed specifically for musicians and music enthusiasts.
These earplugs are engineered to reduce volume across all frequencies evenly, preserving the clarity of music while providing necessary protection. They are available in various price ranges, starting from around £10
Hearprotek High Fidelity Concert Ear plugs – £12.74 – Amazon.co.uk
Zildjian Ear Plugs – £15.65 – Rattle and Drum Music
Alpine Music Safe Pro Ear Plugs – £19.95 – Gear 4 Music
Vic Firth Earplugs – Standard – £15.98 – The Drum and Percussion Centre
4) Custom-Molded Earplugs: Offer a personalised fit by being custom-made for your ears.
They provide excellent comfort and a high level of noise reduction because they are bespoke and guarantee a perfect fit to seal for your ears.
A range of high fidelity filters are available depending on how much protection you require, some that have near flat frequency response, which will work well for different musical or environmental situations. These are he best for listening to music and you can often customise them with colours.
However, they tend to be more expensive, and it’s recommended that you get new ear impressions every four years as the shape of our ears changes as we get older.
Prices start from around £95
5) Over-Ear Headphones: Can also serve as hearing protection, especially in recording environments.
By isolating external sounds and providing controlled sound levels, they can safeguard your hearing. The cost of over-ear headphones varies widely, from affordable options to high-end models costing several hundred pounds.
Audio Technica ATH-M20x Closed Back Headphones – £49.00 – AbsoulteMusic
Vic Firth Stereo Isolation Headphones V2 – £69.99 – GAK.co.uk
beyerdynamic DT150 250-Ohm (Black) – £184.99 – DV247.com
Sennheiser HD 660S – £259 – Sennheiser
Neumann NDH 20 Black Edition – £459 – Thomann
6) For Younger Children: Their ear canals are smaller than adults, requiring a smaller earplug for maximum comfort and to provided adequate protection.
Many great music plugs come in a child, small, or petite sizes. Making them an excellent choice for your child.
Vic Firth Kidphones – Isolation Headphones for Kids – £27.24 – Rattle and Drum Music
Alpine Pluggies Kids Filtered Earplugs 1 Pair – £12 – Boots.com
Senner KidsPro Plug, Reusable Hearing Protection Ear Plugs for Children – £19.99 – Amazon.co.uk
LEGAL OBLIGATIONS AND BEST PRACTICES
In the UK the Government has set out ‘The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005‘ which sets out the minimum standards to prevent hearing injury in the workplace, including the music and entertainment sector.
Educational providers and industry organisations have legal and moral obligations to ensure the health and well-being of their students, performers, and staff.
Implementing best practices, such as risk assessments, scheduling considerations, and creating healthy practice and performance environments, can significantly contribute to hearing conservation.
Your hearing is invaluable, and it is essential to protect it in music environments where exposure where loud sounds is inevitable. Wearing suitable hearing protection, such as high-fidelity earplugs or custom-molded options, can safeguard your hearing without compromising the quality of the music.
Educational institutions, performers, and industry professionals should collaborate to implement best practices and exceed minimum standards to ensure the long-term hearing health of musicians and music enthusiasts.
Remember, noise-induced injury is avoidable and 100% preventable, so let’s prioritise our hearing health and enjoy music for years to come.