Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hearing Loss and Protection for Musicians - My Epic Tale...

Playing in a band can indeed ruin your hearing. However, just growing older will also effect your hearing. I doubt all of our grand parents worked loud vocations let alone in a band so there is your proof that your hearing will degrade over the years. Playing in a band and being next to the drummer who has heavy hands will remind you that sound waves can create physical pain to your person. What guitarist has not turned their amplifier up to its maximum volume in a wild attempt to determine the maximum capability of the given amplifier? If you have played in a big band then you know that horns sections could make Jimi Hendrix's ears bristle in agony.

In the past few years I had the unwelcome experience of waking up to a ringing noise in one of my ears. As I moved from my horizontal position to a standing position I felt dizzy. Now, I am the last guy to see a doctor (*if you have any illness - see a doctor immediately) but I sensed something was wrong and I booked an appointment with my family physician. Well, the doctor first checked my vital signs then looked into my nose and then my ears. The doctor left the room promptly to "research something." Upon returning the doctor told me that my ear drums have pocks on them. "I am sending your to a Ear, nose, and throat specialist," the doctor told me.

I arrive at the ENT and they performed a battery of tests on my hearing and ask me a ton of questions. Next up, I see the doctor. As you can guess, I was a ill at ease literally and my ability to balance was becoming worse. Ear Shingles or more accurately - Ramsay Hunt syndrome. What I was experiencing was a tunnel vision, inability to balance myself (no way could I pass a sobriety check based on balance), tinnitus in my ear (constant ringing), potential facial paralysis, and a lot of fear.

If you have had the chicken pox then you are a candidate for Shingles. These usually effect only one side of the body. In my case, my inner ear was attacked. I temporarily lost 60% of my hearing. I had to take a massive dose of predisone which is a nasty steroid that has a host of side effects that I purposely didn't read about (it's a rule as I've seen far too many people obtain the side effects upon review) to reduce swelling in my ear. That was about all that could be done. Later, I had to attend Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) to rehabilitate my balance. This was completed through exercise and balance rehabilitation which I worked on a daily basis along with once a week visits to a (VRT) therapist. Now what the hell does this have to do with playing music?

The doctors determined through hearing tests that my hearing has changed over the years. Not all of the change is due to my genetic composition. There is an assignable amount of diminished hearing capacity because I was subjected to loud occurrences. They obviously could not pin point the nature of the occurrence but gave me a list for me to use as a tool to discern what types of noise might be applicable to my condition. Let's see.... Rock concerts, loud music, gun shots, explosives, and constant noise. The fact remains that some of my ability to hear high frequency was lost due to neglect. If you are reading this blog then you probably play an instrument so protecting your hearing should be paramount. Be smart and wear hearing protection.

Ear plugs can save your hearing or at least decrease the damage that occurs during loud events. There are many tools available to save the human ear from damage. Many of these products do not decrease the ability to hear and they safely filter the excessive noise. One such company is Hearos, check out their website for products that will help you out. In addition, I had the extreme fortune of dealing with Dr. Jennifer Maw at Ear associates and rehabilitation in San Jose, California. Data doesn't lie and I was able to see the results of my hearing capability from an early time in my life in contrast to a later time period. The result showed hearing loss. I also had testing while the illness had its grip on me verse my hearing capability upon recovery showed that I was back to normal. Or normal as I can be.

So, wear hearing protection, go to the doctor when you are ill, and practice playing your favorite instrument. Hopefully you will have wonderful hearing as long as you live! However, remember that those loud concerts have an accumulative effect and I am living proof. If you think I am full of bologna then google tinnitus along with famous names like Peter Townshend. A great deal of musicians now suffer from hearing loss from exposure to noise. Many of these musician will tell you frankly that they were naive and caution you to be prudent about hearing safety and protection.

How loud is loud? I will add a table soon regarding the activity, noise level db(a), Apparent loudness, and physical response.

*If I had not gone to the doctor in a timely manner, I would have lost 60% of my hearing capability in my left ear.

Endorsed by musicians like Steve Vai and Stephen Perkins, HEAROS High Fidelity earplugs are a favorite for musicians and music fans alike. The newest product in the line, available exclusively at Guitar Center locations in March, is smaller in size for more comfortable long term use.

HEAROS High Fidelity ear plugs use a unique, patented tuned resonator and acoustic resistor to provide flat attenuation, allowing you to hear all the highs and lows without the sound getting muffled. The new item was designed smaller to fit in smaller ear canals or to stay in the average user’s ears for long periods of time to vastly reduce any possibility of inner ear discomfort.


hearing loss treatment said...

This is a nice post you have here. I think musicians should read about this stuff.

Hearing Protections for Musicians said...

Thanks for sharing the blog. Wearing hearing protections will always helps you and you can enjoy playing your favorite instrument.

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