Hearing Resources and Research
I always have colleagues seeking advice about where to get earplugs, how to find a good audiologist, and other good questions, so here are some resources and writing on hearing health for musicians:
Atlanta Hearing Doctor: Classical Musicians and Hearing Loss
Acoustical Society of America: Sound Exposures and Hearing Thresholds (a research study from 1999)
Incidence and relative risk of hearing disorders in professional musicians (a research study from Germany)
Music Exposure and Hearing Disorders: An Overview (research article)
BBC Guide to Musician Hearing Loss: A very neat article looking at different venues in England, the size of stage, reverb, risers, etc.
Pitch Discrimination while wearing Musician Earplugs: This is a fascinating study that can help clarify how much one can really hear pitch while wearing earplugs.
Westone Musician Earplugs: these are the custom earplugs that I currently use, and you can get them at an audiologist near you
Etymotic earplugs: less customized, but still great and way more affordable
Wenger Acoustic Shields: for ensemble use
Sensaphonics earplugs: another brand of customizable earplugs
Ultimate ears: customizable earplugs used by both rock bands and marching bands
Side note, let’s talk about acoustic shields. I’m in favor of them just from the standpoint that it means the orchestra acknowledges that volume is a problem. Many musicians don’t like using earplugs because of the difficulty in hearing oneself, coupled with internal sounds, especially for wind and brass players. The challenge is that one needs to be very close to the shield in order to be protected, and that a wrap around shield may be more effective. (Source: Shields, Screens, and Baffles) A study from Germany concluded that the shield only diminishes sounds by 9dB which doesn’t always bring the baseline of sound to a safe place, and that it depends on the distance between the musicians, the repertoire, and whether all of the instruments are playing simultaneously. For me, that means that the shields are definitely a step in a good direction, but they do NOT diminish the total volume optimally. Conversely, if you are 3 feet away from a piccolo player or trombone section, those 9 dB could be very helpful, especially when you additionally use earplugs.
decibel 10: decibel reader app for iPhone
Sound Meter: decibel reader app for android devices
If you have more suggestions for products, studies, or more, let me know and I'll add it to the list!