Noise exposure is the second most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss after advancing age. If you’re a musician, whether you play in a garage, Miller Theater in downtown Augusta or in an arena, you’re at increased risk of noise-induced hearing loss due to frequent and excessive noise exposure. We review more about this and how you can protect your hearing below.
How Does Loud Sound Cause Damage?
Within your inner ear is the cochlea, which is filled with fluid and lined with tiny hair cells called stereocilia. As sounds pass through your ears, it moves the fluid, which in turn moves the hair cells. Each cell converts a different frequency into electrical energy that travels via the auditory nerve to the brain to be interpreted as sound.
When dangerously loud sounds pass through the ears, it can damage or destroy the stereocilia. Once damaged, they do not regenerate, and the result is permanent sensorineural hearing loss.
How Can I Protect My Hearing?
There are several types of hearing protection available to help protect your hearing as a musician.
Some over-the-counter options include:
- Drugstore earplugs. Earplug options you can find at the drugstore are available in a variety of shapes and materials. For example, you can get foam, plastic or putty earplugs. Unfortunately, drugstore earplugs tend to muffle higher-frequency sounds, which could be a problem for musicians.
- Earmuffs. Earmuffs sit over the ear rather than in the ear canal and work by blocking noise by covering the entire outer ear. This is a popular option for children, but it could still provide benefits to adults. You can find these in big-box stores or online.
- Musician’s earplugs. While a little pricier, musician’s earplugs have a special filter that evenly lowers all frequencies, so music quality sounds the same, it’s just not as loud. These can be found in musician’s shops and online.
Alternatively, for maximum comfort and protection, you can opt for custom-fit hearing protection.
- Custom earplugs. These are madefrom silicone and come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. You have to visit an audiologist to get molds of your ears taken in order to ensure a custom fit.
- Custom in-ear monitors. Another option is to get in-ear monitors, which are more sophisticated devices usually used by professionals. They’re made of acrylic and also molded to the shape of your ear. In-ear monitors plug into a receiver so that they receive music directly from an instrument rather than allowing all sounds through.
For more information about hearing protection or to schedule an appointment with an audiologist, call Augusta - Aiken ENT & Allergy today.