Playing a musical instrument—whether it’s in your school band, orchestra, or professional job can put you at risk for permanent hearing loss and tinnitus [pronounced tin-NYE-tus or TIN-ni-tus], also known as ringing in the ears.

Almost any instrument can harm your hearing, if played loud enough over a long period of time. Don’t let the size or kind of instrument fool you. A piccolo can be just as loud as a slide trombone or bass drum. Violins at peak volume can reach 103 decibels —noisier than many power tools!

Musical Noise
normal piano practice 60-70 dB
fortissimo singer 3 ft. away 70 dB
chamber music in small auditorium 75-85 dB
regular sustained exposure may cause permanent damage 90-95 dB
piano fortissimo 92-95 dB
violin 84-103 dB
cello 82-92 dB
oboe 90-94 dB
flute 85-111 dB
piccolo 95-112 dB
clarinet 92-103 dB
french horn 90-106 dB
trombone 85-114 dB
timpani & bass drum rolls 106 dB
average Walkman on 5/10 setting 94 dB
symphonic music peak 120-137 dB
amplified rock music at 4-6 ft. 120 dB
rock music peak 150 dB

Musicians depend on their hearing, so they need to protect it. Unprotected hearing over time will create hearing loss and or tinnitus. This has hurt many professional musicians careers and affected their quality of life. All musicians should protect their hearing with custom fit, high fidelity ear plugs. Musician earplugs let musicians hear all of the sound, with preserved fidelity, but at a lower sound level. Musician Earplugs have a diaphragm which functions as an acoustic compliance, while the volume of air in the sound bore of the custom earmold acts as an acoustic mass. The combination of the two produces a resonance at approximately 2700 Hz (as in the normal ear), which results in smooth, flat attenuation.

ER 9 provides flat 9 dB sound reduction through the mid range and 15 dB in the highs. ER 15 provides uniform 15 dB sound reduction across all frequencies. ER 25 provides 25 dB relatively flat sound reduction across all frequencies.

Musicians can do other things to protect their hearing. Sound travels in a straight line, so the sound is louder when someone stands directly in front of or behind a speaker. Professional musicians know to stand to the side of a speaker, or to angle the speakers away from them. Musicians also take breaks between sets of music or while practicing to give their ears a rest.

So, if you play in an orchestra or a band, sing on stage, or DJ at friends’ parties—remember to protect your hearing in addition to practicing your instrument!

Working with local musicians is a passion for both Chris and I. When I was in graduate school working on my masters’ thesis project in Audiology, I chose to focus on ER musician plugs and hearing conservation for musicians. My husband, Chris Glen is also a professional musician and was a research subject in my study. He became a true believer in the power of the ER musician plug after his experience in my research study and now dedicates himself to helping other musicians protect their hearing.

My favorite story from a local (an unnamed) musician was learning that he showed up to a gig to play guitar. Upon unpacking his equipment, he detected that he had left his ER plugs at home. Realizing that his most vital piece of equipment had been left behind, he drove the 20 minutes home to get his ER 15 musician plugs. Better late to the gig than to wake up with roaring tinnitus!

You aren’t alone. Some famous musicians that are vocal about their hearing loss and tinnitus are: Neil Young, Ozzy Osbourne, Phill Collins,, Brian Wilson, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, and Ludwig van Beethoven. Research any of these musicians and see what they have to say about hearing conservation.

Treat your hearing like you would your musical equipment. Let us work with you on your hearing conservation solutions, or your in the ear monitor needs.