When I wrote an article recently on some of the things music producers wish they would’ve learned right from the start, I came across a repeated warning which all of the producers seemingly shared and agreed with: the importance of protecting one’s ears.
Give this idea a chance before you click away from the article.
The importance of your hearing really can’t go unexplored, because think about it: what would you do if your hearing started to go?
Truthfully, when people are in their 20s and 30s, they tend to think that it’s a state of their lives in which they’ll live for forever.
But the honest truth is that your 20s and 30s will come to an end; it’s inevitable.
And all of the mistakes you made during this time period will become more obvious as you’ve matured and
Someone once said to me, “Everything you do and don’t do, you pay for with compound interest when you’re older.”
It sounds a bit negative, but unfortunately, there’s a lot of truth to the phrase.
This article isn’t meant to scare you or anything like that, it’s a simple reminder to take care of your ears when you’re still a young person.
You only get one pair.
Think of it using a different analogy.
Many bodybuilders and power-lifters, for instance, spend much of their life lifting weights, and if they did something even slightly improperly, every single day, every week, every year, for decades, these mistakes ultimately add up.
That little form imperfection you had every time you did a deadlift, you pay for that with compound interest as an old person, whether it’s through back pain, knee pain, or whatever.
So how does this relate to using Garageband and musicianship in general?
If you’re always sitting in front of blasting computer speakers, guitar amplifiers, or listening to earbud headphones, for literally years and years and years, maybe reconsider your habits.
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If you’re at the club 4 nights a week, ask yourself if you’ve “gotten used to the sound” that once hurt.
The secret is that ears “don’t get used to anything,” they become damaged.
Audiologists, for instance, have predicted that hearing loss and tinnitus will be a significant problem for today’s youth, (18-35
According to a report from ABC News, the World Health Organization predicted that young people, approximately a billion of them, are at serious risk of hearing damage
Earbuds are playing a big role in this.
Taking that into consideration, if you’re a music producer, you have to ask yourself how much music you’re listening to every day and whether it’s too loud?
If regular people who aren’t even involved in making music are at risk of losing their hearing, then what’s the risk for you?
The worst part of hearing damage is the fact that it gradually gets worse as the years go by without you really noticing it. With the exception of the noise getting to around + 150 dB, your ears won’t really hurt.
A person with hearing damage, may not hear the fact their hearing has deteriorated with time before it’s too late, and that’s what makes it so frightening.
Once it’s damaged, it’s permanent, so it’s important to pay attention to the volume and the time duration at which you’ve listened.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll notice that when listening to music, you want to increase the volume little bit by little bit all of the time.
It starts out where you just turn it up marginally, and then you think to yourself, “I’ll turn it up a little more,” and on and on it goes until you’re at a damaging volume again.
You want to avoid this because tinnitus is unpleasant and irreversible.
What Is Tinnitus?
If you’ve ever felt the sensation of ringing ears after a loud noise, that’s called tinnitus, and it’s a sign of ear damage.
Without getting into all of the scientific jargon and body parts, tinnitus explains the phenomenon whereby the ear is detecting sound long after the sound has actually occurred.
It’s often described by words such as a roar, hissing, buzzing, or perhaps most commonly, ringing.
According to Cymatics.fm, there are two main kinds of hearing tinnitus, temporary and chronic.
Temporary just means that you have it for a moment, like after a concert or a loud event.
Over the course of a day, or maybe even a few hours, your hearing just goes back to normal.
Chronic tinnitus, on the other hand, is a sign that the damage has gotten worse.
It’s when the ringing is neverending, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it just continues to go on for forever.
It makes sleeping or even speaking with others difficult. People with tinnitus often have to sleep with a fan on or a noise-make of some kind to mask the high-pitched ringing while they sleep.
According to the American Tinnitus Association, tinnitus affects around 15% of the population, and the most commonly affected group are musicians and music producers.
I once read an article from a doctor who said that it was useful to think of the eardrum as a patch of grass on your lawn. If you walk across the lawn every once in a while, it’s not a big deal. The lawn will be ok.
But if you continuously walk across that lawn, every single day, over and over again, eventually, what you get is a path due to the damaged lawn, ruined through consistent trampling.
That’s what an eardrum is like. It can take noise every once in a while, but not too much consistently.
Even Ludwig Van Beethoven lost his hearing as a young man, and spent the remainder of his life, composing music without actually being able to hear it.
The tragic irony of Beethoven losing his hearing is unreal, and experts today believe his hearing could’ve been saved with just a 15-minute operation.
Unfortunately, science was just beginning at that time in history.
According to a report from the National Health Services, an airplane taking off is about as loud as 120dB, which is very loud, whereas listening to music with full volume is about 100 to 110dB.
If you listen to music at full volume all of the time, then it’s almost as if you’re sitting beside a jet taking off all day.
That should be a sign to turn the volume down.
Hearing damage is life changing for musicians and artists. If you’ve damaged your ear, you might have to compensate by pre-adjusting certain frequencies in your music simply because you can’t actually hear them.
Others may have to get someone else to mix and master their recordings.
Obviously, we don’t want this.
What can we do, as music producers, to protect our hearing?
The two most important things to remember regarding the protection of ears is the volume, and the time duration.
You can listen to semi-loud music for 30 minutes tops, but after that, maybe just give it a rest for around 10 minutes. You may find it even feels good to do this anyway.
Some experts suggest there is nothing worse than earbud headphones because they don’t allow your ears a break.
But honestly, who wants to carry around those giant bulky headphones?
1) Turn the Volume Down to 50%
Maybe earbuds are bad, but what I like to do, is I buy the noise-canceling earbuds, and then I turn the volume down to 50%.
On my phone, I have the volume limit set at 50%, and it can’t go above that.
At first, dropping the volume down to 50% will seem terrible, but after a few days of consistent listening, you’ll grow accustomed to it.
Eventually, your ears kind of just adapt, and then you’ll ask yourself why you even bothered putting the volume up so high in the first place.
Listening to music at a super high volume is just a really bad habit, to be frank. With some time and energy, you should be able to break the habit.
2) Give your Ears a Break
Another great thing to do which I briefly touched on above, is to rest your ears every once in a while whether you’re just casually or professionally listening.
In addition to helping out your hearing, it gives you a break so you can come back to the mix with a fresh pair of ears.
As I mentioned above, it’s kind of like the lawn example.
The more you walk across the lawn without giving it a break, the sooner the path develops.
3) Get your Hands on Quality Ear Plugs for Loud Events
Another great thing that audio engineers and musicians do, is they purchase earplugs that reduce the amount of volume but don’t eliminate the mid and high-range frequencies as typical foam plugs do.
From what I understand, you have to go to an audiologist specialist to get your hands on earplugs like this. I can’t confirm how great custom
I actually bought a pair of earplugs from Amazon that I really liked for when I used to work in a nightclub as a waiter/bar-back.
I think it’s worth mentioning that the job there was one of the first times that I even thought about protecting my ears.
The DJ there was 29-years-old and he was saying to me that his ears were already extremely damaged and his doctors told him to stop DJing or face permanent damaging.
He chose to continue DJing, and he didn’t even bother to wear the plug-ins because it messed up the mix.
Whether that’s true or not, that was the moment when I finally started to consider protecting my hearing as an important part of the musician/music producer’s journey.
In combination with the extremely loud volume of the club and the DJ’s story, I was finally forced to go out and buy some off Amazon for around $20 and they were a good purchase.
The great thing about them, is that you can’t even see them when they’re in your ears.
You can see them in the image below:
4) Avoid Driving With The Windows Down
This is a surprising one for many people, including myself.
It turns out that driving at high speeds with the windows down is very hard on your ears. It doesn’t even seem that loud, but the effect is palpable.
Though, if you’ve learned anything from this article, know that it’s ok to listen to loud noises for short bursts of time. Just don’t have the windows down longer than 5-10 minutes at a time.
Don’t Be Too Fearful
There are actually a ton of other things to avoid if you don’t want to damage your hearing including smoking and junk food, drums, and other instruments, loud machinery, vacuuming, air dryers, sirens, and impact sports like boxing.
But, the point of this article isn’t to be an alarmist.
If you went around, avoiding every little sound for fear of hurting your ears what kind of life would that be?
The big thing is to just avoid extremely loud noises for long periods of time and watch how you’re listening to music. Purchase a pair of solid earplugs for concerts, raves, and
Before I move on from this topic, I just want to leave you with one last analogy.
If you’re a guitar player, and the way you practice every single day, while effective, renders you completely unable to play when you’re 45-years-old, would you keep playing that way?
The answer is obviously not, so why go about listening to music that way either? You want to enjoy your entire life with functioning ears, not just the first 20-30 years.
Also, I just want to reiterate one of the points made above: understand that your ears “don’t get used” or “build up a tolerance” to anything.
If you ever hear someone say that going to nightclubs or concerts doesn’t hurt their ears anymore because they’re used to it, that basically means they have suffered permanent ear damage.
Anyway, moving on. Thanks a lot for checking this article out and sharing it on your social media.