Hear Ye, Hear Ye

Getting musician’s earplugs now as well as adhering to a few safety tips can prevent needing hearing aids later.

One of a musician’s greatest tools is the ability to hear. It is important to protect one’s ears early on because, like the old adage says, a pound of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.

Meet Tom

Tom Ryberg, a drum major in high school, was a composition major at Oberlin College’s Conservatory of Music, where he also played in a salsa band.

Ryberg believes that being a drum major in high school is one of the reasons that his hearing is still intact. Being farther away from the musicians on the field, Ryberg received less exposure to the, at times, harmful low frequencies of the drums and horn sections.

In addition Ryberg says he was “serious about [wearing his musician’s earplugs]” while playing in his salsa band. The musician’s earplugs didn’t “distort [the] sound” of the music but “blocked out high and low frequencies evenly,” he says.

Meet Paul

On the other hand, 27-year-old Paul Cunningham notices from time to time while listening to music that he has the volume turned up to almost full capacity.

Cunningham, who played tenor drums, was part of the Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets from 2001 to 2002 as well as in 2004. Additionally, he was in the San Francisco Renegades in 2003.

Cunningham did not consistently use earplugs. He started using foam earplugs while in rehearsal but found them to be frustrating because they muffled the voices of his directors. Cunningham “remedied” this by only using one earplug.

In 2000, Cunningham’s mother insisted that he get fitted for musician’s earplugs, which were “really effective at bringing all levels down to a reasonable frequency,” he says.

Even though they were more expensive than the foam earplugs that anyone can buy in a drugstore, Cunningham agreed with his mother that the money was worth it instead of paying for hearing aids later in life.

Listen to Dr. Gugenheim

Dr. Stephen Gugenheim, an otolaryngologist based in Modesto, Calif., says that prolonged periods of exposure to low frequencies, such as those produced by a drum line or tuba, can cause hearing damage and hearing loss. The amount of damage depends on the closeness of the ear to the low frequency sounds being produced, how loud the sound is, and the length of time that the ear is exposed to the sound.

Gugenheim feels that it is important for those involved with marching bands to take breaks during rehearsals in order to give the ears a rest. They should also get a baseline hearing test along with yearly follow-up exams.

And that ringing in your ears after a concert, that’s temporary hearing loss. If you’ve ever experienced that after being on the field, it might be time to invest in the health of your ears.

About the Author

After dancing since the age of 3, Haley Greenwald-Gonella thought it was time to try a new art. In elementary school, she began playing the flute and was in the marching band in middle school and for the first two years of high school. She also played the bassoon during concert season. Dance drew Haley back while in high school.

She graduated from the University of California, Irvine with degrees in dance and English. She is now attending the University of Southern California and is getting her master’s degree in Specialized Journalism (The Arts).

Haley is also a certified registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance. She draws upon her dance and yoga training when it comes to all things fitness and the arts.

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