Musicians Need to Protect Their Hearing!!

By: Lisa D. Cahill, Ph.D., CCC-A

Musicians practice and perform in a variety of settings. They are exposed to high levels of sound, sometimes for long periods and may require different levels of protection depending on sounds encountered during rehearsals and performance. While classical and orchestral music typically hovers between 85-90 dBSPL, performing and practicing rock musicians are often exposed to sound pressure levels in excess of 110 dBSPL. Some musicians use one type of attenuator in one ear and one type in the other, depending on the source and location of the sound. Other musicians unfortunately opt to use nothing at all “until they absolutely need it”.

Many resources are available for hearing conservation, specifically for musicians.  For example, the organization H.E.A.R. (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers) is a non-profit venture dedicated to raising awareness of noise exposure that can lead to permanent hearing loss and tinnitus (  A wonderful interactive website for anyone interested in hearing damage from exposure to loud sounds is, which has educational tutorials and demonstrations for education the public on how to conserve their hearing in the presence of intense sounds. 

Musician earplugs with interchangeable filters

Benefits of using custom fitted hearing protection for music is multi-faceted. Typical over the counter earplugs tend to reduce high pitches much greater than low pitches, creating a booming and hollow “muffled” sensation perceived as poor intelligibility. The filtered sound attenuators created for custom earplugs reduce sound evenly across all frequencies so that music and speech are clear and natural rather than muffled. Use of hearing protection reduces risk of hearing damage for many noisy occupations and noisy venues, such as airshows, parades, athletic events and motor sports.  At the same time, this strategy actually enhances the music experience for audiences while protecting hearing. In fact, with the filtered earplugs, musicians are able to hear their own instrument and blend with others. Custom fitted filtered musician earplugs can range in cost from $150-$300 a pair. These generally are available in 3-4 levels of attenuation depending on how much protection the musician needs.

Musician In-Ear Monitoring system

For musicians that need a high quality system to monitor an audio mix while on stage, there are monitoring systems available called In-Ear Monitors.  In-Ear monitors are also custom fitted as well as provide a high definition stereo mix to each ear to allow the performer to hear a personalized mix of the elements that are important to their playing.  This type of product also reduces ambient room noise and crowd noise for a better signal-to-noise ratio.  This type of product starts at around $600 and can exceed $2000, depending on the technology and interfaces needed.

It is recommended that music-inclined patients receive an annual hearing test, especially when seeking protection for music ventures!  It is important to know the status of your hearing, particularly when regularly exposed to high sound pressure levels.  Tinnitus and hypersensitivity to sound are symptoms of a developing hearing loss due to intense loudness, these factors as well as more prevalent hearing loss are significantly greater in musicians who do not use any form of hearing protection (Schmuziger, et. al., 2006). 

In spite of evidence supporting the use of hearing protection during music performances, studies have shown that many college musicians still avoid using them due to misperceptions that they are cumbersome, uncomfortable, and that they block the fine nuances of the music.  Among many music inclined individuals, use of any hearing protection during musical performances or practices is considered a “last resort” (Chesky, et. al., 2009).  Unfortunately by the time the “last resort” arrives, it is generally too late, because sensorineural hearing cannot be restored once it is lost!

If you play live music yourself or simply enjoy attending and listening to live music, custom fitted musician earplugs are essential to protecting your hearing! Please call our office for a consultation, a hearing test, and a recommendation on the best type for you! We will offer a 15% discount on the purchase of a set of any custom fitted musician product through Feb 28, 2015!



Chesky, K., Pair, M., Yoshimura, E., Landford, S. (2009). An evaluation of earplugs with college music students. International Journal of Audiology, 48(9): 661-670.

Schmuziger, N., Patscheke, J., Probst, R. (2006). Hearing in non-professional pop/rock musicians. Ear and Hearing, 27(4):321-30.