HOW TO SAVE YOUR HEARING ON TOUR
THURSDAY // JANUARY 4, 2018
All good things come to an end - including your hearing if you fail to take proper precautions. Why do we work in this industry? We love live music. Working in this industry allows you to hear live music closer than any concert-goer. The ultimate experience.
Unfortunately, the sound-reinforcement workplace is not regulated, reported Sarah Jones of Live Design. More specifically, sound engineers are at serious risk as they feel pressured to create the loudest show possible.
In fact, the live entertainment industry ranked number six on Health 24's "The 10 Worst Jobs for Your Ears" list, adjacent to careers in operating heavy machinery.
While working in the live music industry doesn’t allow for much personal time, personal safety and health should never be placed on the back burner. We’re not talking about the common cold - damaging your hearing aggregates and is permanent. Here are some warning signs and tips to prevent hearing loss before it’s far too late.
Identify the problem
Before attempting to diagnose yourself, it is vital to get a hearing test. After receiving the facts, you’ll know the foundation you stand on to further protect yourself accordingly.
Benj Kanters, an audio professional at Columbia College who continues to raise hearing loss awareness in the industry, told Jones the benefits of using products to monitor SPLs (sound pressure levels) by determining dangerous audio levels in live-time.
Specifically, Kanters refers to the Trend system, a hardware and software solution with the ability to measure, log and report SPLs, allowing the production team to adjust to safe volumes.
While professionals may suggest the Trend system, that measures SPLs over the duration of a show, it may not be the most practical method for sound engineers to adopt.
Mixing with plugs? No way!
Kanters explains the common issue sound engineers experience with the inability to hear detail while mixing with plugs. He suggests fixing the detail and immediately putting the plugs back in.
Michael Santucci, an audiologist with 30 years of experience in training live music industry workers in hearing loss prevention, suggested alternate mixing techniques to comply with hearing protection.
Unfortunately, while learning to mix dynamically with subtractive mixing takes practice, nothing depends on hearing loss prevention, but rather the engineer’s abilities and what the band wants, Santucci told Jones.
Jones reveals the common misconception among industry professionals who believe P.A. systems emitting low distortion are completely safe. Santucci explains the FOH technology actually allows a cleaner sound and masks volumes detrimental to hearing.
Another conundrum, Jones adds, is the in-ear monitor musicians use - but will turn up anyway. The purpose is defeated, and you will remain at risk.
Santucci’s research proves it: 95 percent turn on ear monitors matching the exactly same volume as floor monitors, Jones reports.
Things that alleviate hearing damage but won’t prevent or cure it?
- Muscle training
A Louder Awareness
Hearing loss is a growing epidemic. According to MusiCares of the Recording Academy, the number of Americans with hearing loss has doubled between 2000 and 2015, and globally, the number is 44 percent.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 18 percent of adults 20-69 experience hearing loss in both ears from reportedly working 5 or more years in a noise-induced working environment.
Jones reports on the growing number of resources educating live music industry workers:
- The Audio Engineering Society continues to spread awareness of noise-induced hearing loss in the industry, and has held multiple tutorials and workshops on the topic. Their 3rd annual AES International Conference will occur at Columbia College in Chicago on June 20-22, 2018. Click here for more information.
- MusiCares offers hearing clinics with complimentary ear impressions and custom musician earplugs for all attendees. Their website offers a plethora of educational articles you can visit here.