Hearing loss is a major concern for musicians in general, but especially for marching band members. It's one of those things that should be addressed more often than it is, even in concert settings. One thing that many people don't realize is that hearing loss is cumulative; you can't reverse the damage once it's been done. For more information about this, click here.
The best means of prevention is to wear hearing protection in rehearsals, especially indoors. This is absolutely imperative for percussionists, as they deal with the highest sound levels, but the rest of the ensemble should wear hearing protection as well. There have even been studies showing that players of certain instruments are more likely to lose their hearing because of where they typically SIT in an ensemble, not because of what they PLAY. So, if you tend to have a trumpet bell 3 feet behind your head when we're inside, you NEED to be wearing hearing protection.
There are three levels of protection: cheap, average, and expensive. Luckily, they can all protect your hearing very well.
Cheap (under $10)
- Can be found in the pharmacy section of just about any store that has one.
- Usually comes in packs of several pairs (intended to be disposable).
- Targeted toward people in construction OR partners of people who snore or sleep in noisy environments.
- Aren't designed for musicians, so it tends to cut off high and/or low frequencies. Things sound muffled.
- Difficult to gauge musical balance.
Average (under $25)
- Last longer.
- Designed for musicians.
- More dependable than cheap foam earplugs.
- Cut frequencies equally across all levels.
- Not as comfortable as custom-fit; flanges may bother some people.
- We offer Etymotic Research ER20 High Fidelity Earplugs with a cord and case through our order form.
- Custom fit to your ear.
- Replaceable and interchangeable filters (different levels of decibel reduction).
- Clear sound; essentially "turns down the volume."
- Expensive, but high-quality and last a very long time with proper care.
- Must be ordered through a licensed hearing professional. The doctor will take a mold of your ears in the office and then send it out for the plugs to be made.
- Etymotic Research and Westone Labs are recommended highly.
- If you are planning to continue working with bands after you graduate (either as a band director or staff member), you may want to consider these.
- Etymtic Research now offers Music•PRO adaptive earplugs. These are the most expensive option, but have some fantastic features.
- Don't lose them!
Hearing loss is finally getting the attention it deserves. Musicians have ignored the risks for a very long time, and many are suffering the consequences. The fact is, hearing loss is a real risk. It is cumulative and, at this point, irreversible. Many musicians (and music fans!) experience ringing in their ears or hearing loss at some point in their lives. This is very often permanent, even the ringing (tinnitus).
We strongly encourage all members to wear earplugs and have gotten a substantial discount on Etymotic Research musician's earplugs. We sell them to the students at cost.
Etymotic has several resources regarding hearing protection on their website. Here are some links to those:
Make sure you add earplugs to your order! Cheap drugstore ones can be used instead if money is a concern. These are not designed for music applications and may muffle sounds too much and dampen certain frequencies over others. The musicians' earplugs are designed to basically lower the volume across the board, so things will sound much better with them (and you'll have an easier time with balance and such). But at the end of the day, all we care about is you protecting your hearing.