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How Can an Audio Professional Protect Their Hearing?

Doctor performing ear exam on audio professional

Being an audio professional requires having a wide skillset to rely on to make every project successful. While having technical know-how is certainly important, there is one thing an audio professional that is equally as important – having healthy ears. Yes, healthy ears can’t be taken for granted because any kind of hearing damage may be irreversible. And with 15% percent of Americans having hearing loss due to work environments, it’s more important than ever to take care of your ears as an audio professional.

The Various Forms of Hearing Damage

There are various forms of hearing loss, some of which can be highly significant. One of these is conductive hearing loss, which occurs when sounds are unable to move from the outer to the inner ear because of blockages. The other major type is known as sensorineural hearing loss, which is when there is damage to the sensitive hair cells in the inner ear or the auditory nerve. Sensorineural hearing damage mainly occurs with aging or an injury to the area.

Examples of Conductive Hearing Loss

  • Middle ear infections, which can lead to swelling or pus in some cases block the sound going from the outer to the inner ear. Left untreated, there is a potential for severe hearing loss but most cases will see hearing return once the infection has subsided.
  • Swimmer’s ear refers to common inflammation or swelling that occurs within the ear canal. Contrary to popular belief, this can happen with or without the buildup of water. Hearing that’s lost during this kind of infection generally returns once the infection subsides.
  • Fluid can build up in the space behind the eardrum.In contrast to popular belief, this can happen with or without infection. While this can dissipate on its own, the eardrum can burst if that field of fluid becomes infected.
  • A viral infection of the cochlea can create sudden hearing loss. This type of infection is similar to ones that affect the upper respiratory systems. Although this can be serious, hearing can come back entirely or partially. There is even a risk of permanent hearing loss.

Exposure to Loud Noises

Hearing loss can also happen from repeated, long term exposure to loud noises. At this point, it is common knowledge that loud noise damages hearing. This affects not only musicians, but also other music professionals. For this reason, one of the biggest risks of hearing loss is repeated exposure. This occurs from accumulating over years of loud working environments or loud listening. This damage is irreversible and can also leave a permanent, high pitched ringing in the ears (tinnitus). For this reason, many concert venues now recommend hearing protection for both audiences and musicians.

What to Do to Promote Healthy Ears

Thankfully, are plenty of preventative options to help anyone in the audio engineering or music production field. With these tips, anyone in the music business can protect their ears–and potentially careers from hearing damage.

Regular Checkups

First, it’s important to get regular checkups with a primary care physician with hearing checkups being a part of every visit. In addition, it’s also wise to consult with a hearing care specialist for separate testing on an annual basis. Another aspect of this is to monitor one’s stress levels while working on a project.

Give Your Ears a Break

Being an audio engineer means there will be long hours in the studio, and that can wear someone down in different ways. For every continuous hour of listening to audio at a raised volume, it’s best to take a break of at least ten minutes. Playback on studio monitors can often be loud to bring out fine details in the mix, but professionals should be cautious about the level of playback. Put a limit on smoking and caffeine intake as much as possible, as this can be deleterious to the body over lengths of time in high-pressure situations. That also includes limiting energy drinks, which can be a constant presence in recording studios.

Protecting Your Ears at Concerts

Whether you decide to work in a venue or recording studio, hearing protection is paramount. An audio professional constantly faces loud noises, and many utilize earplugs. Modern earplugs made specifically for musicians and music professionals are commonly available in today’s market. These earplugs not only cut out harmful frequencies and noise, but also deliver a clean sound. Custom options are also available to provide superior comfort and protection.

How to Protect Your Ears in Studio

Of course, no discussion of having healthy ears is complete without addressing studio gear. It’s preferable to have over-the-ear headphones as opposed to earbuds or in-ear monitors. This is because earbuds are designed to fit close to the eardrum. In the long run, this can lead to more risk of damage through prolonged exposure to loud sounds.

Earbuds also can lead to more earwax being built up in the ear canal, so it behooves the audio professional to clean them regularly. Over-the-ear headphones are the most common in professional studios, thanks to their durability and sound quality, but with the growing popularity of in-ear monitors the dangers of high-volume listening should not be ignored.

With these steps, great audio engineers will be able to count having healthy ears as part of their sterling professional reputation for years to come.

Want to Learn More?

As an audio engineer or music producer, your ears are your most important tool in the recording studio. But taking the time to protect your ears is an important part of being a successful audio recording professional. If being an audio engineer or music producer is your passion, take a moment to check out IPR’s Audio Production and Engineering Program.

Contact us today to learn more about the Audio Production and Engineering program and starting a rewarding career in the music industry.