How to protect your hearing while playing music

When you’re ripping away at a new song, either by yourself or with a band, it can be tempting to crank the sound on your amplifier all the way up! 

However, even if the music doesn’t feel too loud, it can still be damaging to your hearing. 

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that noise exposure not be over 85 dB(A) averaged over a daily eight-hour work shift. Most musicians don’t play that long per day – however, the louder the noise, the sooner it can harm hearing. 

“For instance, musicians who practice or perform at an average sound level of 94 dB(A) would begin to be at risk after only about an hour,” NIOSH says. 

Noise levels above 85 dBa can come from unexpected places. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, an example of 85 dBa is a busy school cafeteria or heavy city traffic. The average dBa of a subway platform is 95 dBa, personal listening devices at max volume can be 105 dBa, and a rock concert or a symphony orchestra is 110 dBa. 

A German study from 2014 found that professional musicians are four times more likely than non-musicians to report noise-induced hearing loss. 

Luckily, there are ways to protect your hearing while practicing or performing. 

You can use a dB meter during practice sessions to monitor the sound levels around you. You can find some apps that do this via a Smartphone. 

Get in the habit of using earplugs in loud environments – not just music venues, but also while using power tools or lawn mowers. You can buy disposable ear plugs at most drugstores. You can also buy reusable earplugs that are made of silicone or plastic, or get a pair of custom-fitted earplugs for the best results. Make sure they seal well in your ears! 

You can also get external ear protection (that looks like earmuffs) that goes on top of your ears. 

If you suspect that you might have noise-induced hearing loss, make an appointment with an audiologist for an evaluation. 

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