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Author Topic: Study: earplugs for everyone  (Read 2648 times)
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Burgerbob

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« Reply #20 on: Nov 24, 2017, 04:48PM »

I did wear mine once, my musicians ear plugs, in big band. The lead trumpet was so unbelievably loud that I didn't care what I sounded like.

I think you'd find you sound pretty much the same with them in.
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« Reply #21 on: Nov 24, 2017, 05:12PM »

I keep a pair of good ear plugs in every instrument case.
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« Reply #22 on: Nov 24, 2017, 06:53PM »

I think you'd find you sound pretty much the same with them in.

That's the issue. I only hear the horrible sound from within my head, due to the ear plugs, and that changes the way I play. I know trying to correct for it is 100% wrong, but I have no way to know what the sound is in real time without a monitor, and since I play based on what I hear and feel ... it is not practical at all. Impossible really.
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« Reply #23 on: Nov 24, 2017, 07:19PM »

Practice solves many issues, even habits.  :)
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« Reply #24 on: Nov 24, 2017, 07:27PM »

Practice solves many issues, even habits.  :)


We need a "like" button for quotes like this :D
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« Reply #25 on: Nov 24, 2017, 09:59PM »

Then it wouldn't be the way I play.
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« Reply #26 on: Nov 24, 2017, 10:08PM »

That's the issue. I only hear the horrible sound from within my head, due to the ear plugs, and that changes the way I play. I know trying to correct for it is 100% wrong, but I have no way to know what the sound is in real time without a monitor, and since I play based on what I hear and feel ... it is not practical at all. Impossible really.

I came to the conclusion a while ago that in an environment where earplugs are really needed, no amount of beautiful tone really matters, because that's not going to come through. It's best to just wear the ear plugs, and play with good time, pitch, and articulation, and ignore tone.

I also observed that in bad, loud environments, I sometimes hear better with earplugs than without. Less distortion effects (specifically due to loudness) on the eardrum and the rest of the amplification mechanisms in the ear.

I'm also done with going to rock/pop concerts. Some of those things get so loud that ear plugs don't even protect my ears enough.

I'm also highly suspicious of movie theatres. Some of them have really stupid, loud sound setups, and some of them are OK.

Because my work occasionally takes me to factories here and there, I keep a couple sets of earplugs for factory environments. Even a moderate din in a factory can really tire out the ears without protection after a few hours.
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« Reply #27 on: Nov 24, 2017, 10:17PM »

And not just the violas in front of the trombones, either

New research: All orchestra players should wear ear plugs



My crit would be the framing of the discussion as if it were primarily a professional symphony musician problem, whereas it's a problem that starts as early as 5th grade beginner bands where some students' ears are placed just inches in front of trumpet and trombone bells.

Also, a criticism: the level at which sound causes hearing damage is a bit more complex than briefly described in that abstract. 90Db can generally cause harm, but at a sustained 90Db over 12 hours. Higher decibels cause damage after shorter durations. And there is individual variation, although it's obviously a good idea to err on the low side for those people who are more prone to loudness-induced hearing damage.
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« Reply #28 on: Nov 24, 2017, 11:31PM »

Then it wouldn't be the way I play.

Then maybe it's time to change it.

Want to sound good for another ten years, and then have no ears to continue? Or sound just as good for another 40 or 50? I honestly don't understand your position on this.

I got my first set in 2011. I hated them. I couldn't hear anything and it made me too aware of my oral cavity, so I pinched and tired myself out.

So then I used them constantly, especially in practice but also in any loud performance situation, to get used to it. I play a lot better now than I did then, that's for sure.
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« Reply #29 on: Nov 25, 2017, 07:10AM »

I honestly don't understand your position on this.

I got my first set in 2011. I hated them. I couldn't hear anything....

 :/

I got my first set in 2011. I hated them. I couldn't hear anything....

I play a lot better now than I did then, that's for sure.

Most confusing "serious" post I've ever read here (knowing that I write a lot of bogus stuff here).

"I started shooting blindfolded in 2011. Couldn't see the broad side of a barn, but I just kept wearing my blindfold exclusively. I definitely shoot better now than I ever did."

I get that you like ear plugs. I don't think everybody can learn to cope with them. I did wear mine in one big band, because it was obnoxious. Rock band has in ear monitors, so I wear them when I play in that sort of thing too. But concert band? Orchestra? BQ? It's not like I'm playing in the Blue Falcons DCI band, or whatever it's called. I think wearing them in real chamber ensembles just helps perpetuate playing that is bad or too loud. And if you really need, we use sound shields.
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« Reply #30 on: Nov 25, 2017, 07:34AM »

As said in the article to start this thread, sound shields don't work.

Have you ever sat in front of timpani? Bass drum? Glockenspiel?

All I'm saying with my post is that practice makes things better. Of course they will be hard to play with at first. No one is debating that. You are being willfully obtuse.
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« Reply #31 on: Nov 25, 2017, 07:36AM »

First off, I think some of us are overestimating the volume of a symphony orchestra.

I hate earplugs.

I had to go to classes on this stuff when I was a musical director for a cruise line. From what I remember, it's 90 dB at 8 hours total exposure (over 24.) Every extra 5 dB cuts allowable exposure time in half.

If we give an Orch an upper limit of 100 dB (which is pretty loud for most orchestras), according to OHSA a person can only be exposed to that level for 2 hours - if I'm remembering my tables right.

That's the upper limit. I don't do many orchestral gigs, but I don't remember seeing FFF written all over the place on any of them. Generally the amount of time the orchestra is actually in that upper limit is small, measurable in seconds - minutes at most - over the course of a rehearsal or concert.

I know the trombone is capable of a hell of a lot of volume. I've had fun with dB meters. The F above middle C is pretty easy to cause pain with, and I can put it at 106 without much effort. I've never had to play anywhere near that loud in an orchestra or big band.

OHSA tables were put together for industrial work conditions that most of us are never exposed to. If you've ever been on a factory floor, you'll notice that the noise is interminable. It's loud and it doesn't stop. These aren't the conditions in an orchestra. They never are.

Some people are overly sensitive to noise. These people probably shouldn't play in large ensembles, but if that's the case ear plugs are probably the only remedy for those with a physical disposition towards noise sensitivity.

Certain sounds (percussion, sitting with your head right in front of a brass player, sitting right in front of the drummer, etc.) are very loud in their attacks and can cause acute damage, and if this is a normal situation one might want to consider ear plugs or some kind of barrier. Those loud attacks tend to do the most damage to your upper frequency range. That's the register where you here "shhh" sounds, transient things like the ping of a cymbal, jangling of car keys, etc. Even though we commonly list the range of human hearing as 20Hz-20KHz, Most people are limited up to 16KHz by the time they reach adulthood and most of us regardless of our occupation lose more of that high range over time.  Our sensitivity to this range is different from person to person - frankly, I don't want to be able to hear that register too well, that'd definitely cause over-sensitivity.

If you're playing in groups with amplified instruments, it may be a good idea to invest in good musician's plugs with a customizable rolloff. Amplified rock bands tend to stay around that 100 dB threshold and stay there longer. Over the course of a 4 hour gig you're very likely doing some damage. Good mixing and noise canceling headphones can help this tremendously.

 Jazz groups - depends on the group. Acoustic bebop, trad group - shouldn't get too loud for too long. Organ trios, fusion groups tend to get loud. Blakey style groups can get big although they should stay as acoustic as possible which mitigates that noise level somewhat.

Salsa groups often get loud, but that tends to be more due to the sound engineers than the group. Acoustically most salsa groups are actually quieter than big bands. Good salsa groups blend really well and manipulate dynamics to the extreme. When the sound engineers get involved and they aren't on top of it all hell breaks loose.

Take care of your hearing, but buy a dB meter and make sure your fears are justified.
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« Reply #32 on: Nov 25, 2017, 08:18AM »

To be clear, I have more rarely worn earplugs in performances with orchestras. Performance spaces are much more open and easy on the ears. Rehearsals in smaller rooms are where the issue comes from.

Again, why take the risk? If you can play well with earplugs in in a situation that may or may not be safe, I would choose the plugs every time. I need these ears in 40 years.
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« Reply #33 on: Nov 25, 2017, 08:46AM »

Again, why take the risk? If you can play well with earplugs in in a situation that may or may not be safe, I would choose the plugs every time. I need these ears in 40 years.

If you can play with plugs with no problems, that's fine. For you. It's not fine for me, nor Harrison I assume. I usually know from experience what the safe and unsafe situations are. If I'm not sure, I'm using a dB meter. I need to hear the full range of frequencies to dial in my sound and attacks for the gig so I'm not using plugs unless it's necessary. I know I'm not overly sensitive, and it could be the scarring on my eardrums has had an added benefit of giving me a dB or two of natural rolloff.

Again, if it works for you use it! Plugs don't work for many of us. I know they don't work for me, and it's not for lack of practice. When I know I need to use them I spend a few days on them to get used to it, but I've never been able to adapt to it. It'll always be uncomfortable and plugs will always be my last resort.

There is no need to over-state the risks to make a point. Know the risks, know they can be different for everybody, and know that there are ways to mitigate the risk. When in doubt, get a dB meter so you know what you're being exposed to - and know that the exposure risk is measured in dB and TIME -Time is almost always left out of these conversations and without the time of exposure, these discussions just serve to propagate bad information.
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« Reply #34 on: Nov 25, 2017, 08:58AM »

A few random observations:

Occupationally induced hearing loss tends to occur in relatively low frequencies. In fact, that is one if the ways they distinguish occupational hearing loss from aging.

Leaf blowers and blenders can be loud enough to get into the danger zone.

There was a case in the local symphony where one of the trumpet players unsuccessfully claimed workerís compensation benefits for hearing loss he said was caused by sitting in proximity to the trombones. I canít recall the reasons but itís likely that the hearing loss wasnít consistent with the effects of constant exposure over time. That being said, I bought HP when sitting right in front of tympani for one concert. Havenít needed them since in orch. I could have used them the other night when Mr Jazz Trumpet Soloist was playing directly at my ear but  that was pretty short. Shite solo too.

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« Reply #35 on: Nov 25, 2017, 09:39AM »

I suddenly can't read any longer because my hearing aid just ran out of battery. Gimme a sec ... !
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« Reply #36 on: Nov 25, 2017, 10:02AM »

Some comments based on my experience with earplugs.

To me it is much better to play without earplugs because the sound of the trombone (and everything else) is of course very different (to me) when using earplugs. There are also other effects such as hearing more "whatīs going on inside your head when you're playing" when using plugs. It think this is the effect BurgerBob is mentioning earlier in this thread.

There are also very different types of earplugs to be found. The custom ones moulded to fit your ears cannot at all be compared with more standard types. The custom ones fills more of the ear canals so you do not get that occlusion effect ("cotton"/stuffy feeling) but instead it feels like everything is just more dampened down.

The ones I use are custom made (from ACS) and I am quite happy with these. I use them not only for playing but also when attending concerts where I know the volume will be high. I found this a good investment - compared to the horn(s), mouthpieces etc they are not that expensive.

When using earplugs when attending concerts it seems that details in the music are becoming more clear when putting the plugs in the ears. On big concerts the sound can be quite "blended" and "muddy" and the plugs are maybe doing some filtering and thereby improving the sound, I don't know...

Regarding sound and hearing damage I think it is not only the volume (dB) itself that counts but what frequencies and type of music we are talking about. If you are standing close to a timbales player or a guy hitting a cowbell for 2 hours you are guaranteed 2 days of ringing ears afte the gig. The high frequencies (cymbals, high frequency percussion instruments) are more damaging than lower frequencies. My understanding is that the high frequencies are also those that disappears first when it comes to hearing loss.

It is probably possible to get used to playing with plugs if one does this very much, but - I think you will never have the same experience as if you play without.  


So in summary:
- I prefer playing without earplugs but I try to judge the occation and if there will be much sound and high frequencies I use plugs. (Unless I take my chances and maybe have ringing ears after the gig)
- custom earplugs are quite good in my opinion and are also useful when attending concerts.
- Overall I think you sound pretty much the same with or without plugs. But your own experience is different.
- be careful if there will be lot of percussion in the band and try to get as far away from the drummer as possible :-)

I should also say that I am an amateur player, playing in a couple of latin/salsa bands. I also have got some tinnitus from playing, normally I do not notice it but I try to be careful and not get more of it.
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« Reply #37 on: Nov 25, 2017, 11:02AM »

My understanding is that in normal aging the higher frequencies go first. If itís due to exposure the frequencies lost depend on the frequencies one is exposed to. Eg. Industrial noise is relatively low frequency.
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« Reply #38 on: Nov 25, 2017, 07:26PM »

It is probably possible to get used to playing with plugs if one does this very much, but - I think you will never have the same experience as if you play without.  

Sorry to harp on this, but why does this keep coming up? No one who advocates wearing ear plugs is saying that the experience is the same. That's not the point.  Don't know
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« Reply #39 on: Nov 25, 2017, 10:25PM »

A long time ago I got into a habit that I think has saved my hearing.  I wear earplugs AFTER the gig, driving home.  That allows recovery time, which is effective.

I almost never wear earplugs on a gig, but I've been experimenting with some options.  Etymotic makes some electronic "earplugs" that I like.  They're more like hearing aids with a limiter.  Everything sounds almost normal at lower volume or even for conversation, but at increased volume it still sounds the same, not louder.  The perception of your own sound is closer to normal than it is with regular earplugs.

https://www.etymotic.com/consumer/hearing-protection/mp915.html

They're not cheap but it's better than losing your hearing, and I like them a lot better than earplugs.
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