Over 2 million students in the United States play in middle and high school bands. 300,000 of those students go on to play in college bands. Until recently, the noise levels that these students were exposed to went unnoticed as well as the repercussions associated with the resulting damage to their young ears.
A noise-induced hearing loss is without a cure and is permanent. When you are a musician, the most essential instrument you have is your hearing.
Band instruments are handled with care and precision; so should your ears be handled. The hard work and dedication demanded of today’s college musicians are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss causes the student to miss their cue, play the wrong note, or fail to notice their tone is flat or sharp. Along with losing a scholarship due to being unable to perform, or having to give up music, the greater risk is the irreversible damage to their hearing. Noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL, is irreversible. It is also entirely preventable.
In this document, we will cover the risk to one’s hearing that college band members are taking without proper ear protection. We’ll cover the effects of being exposed to high decibel levels over time and look at the reward earned by protecting young ears with earplugs that will not compromise the sound quality of the music. Earplugs come in all different shapes, types, and sizes that fit into specific categories depending on the acoustic situation. According to Bob Robinson of BestofMachinery, “The benefits of music or machinery ear plugs seem fairly obvious to most, but a lot of people still don’t want to use them.” They are very underrated yet very easy to acquire.
The risk and effects of noise-induced hearing loss in musicians
The most challenging issue regarding noise-induced hearing loss is the lack of immediate symptoms. NIHL gradually affects the ability to hear. Symptoms and side-effects are not recognized typically until years later. However, studies show that a loss of hearing leads to an increase in the chances of illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
• The ears’ hair cells (stereocilia) to be bent or broken permanently.
• Sound to seem dampened/muffled causing musicians to play sharp/flat.
• Missed cues.
• Depression from losing a scholarship or not passing.
• The trouble with social interactions leading to situations of
• Loss of cognitive focus.
• Drop in grades.
OSHA Noise Regulations (Standard 1910.95(b) (1))requires employers to monitor sound if it equals or exceeds 85 decibels and provide individuals with protective equipment such as earplugs or noise-canceling earphones when employees are exposed to noise levels. How to prevent noise-induced hearing loss?
The only way to cure NIHL is to prevent it. College band members can prevent noise-induced hearing loss by taking preventive measures such as requiring earplugs. Until recently, this was an unacceptable solution as the market only consisted of foam earplugs or generic silicone earplugs that fit poorly, canceled too much sound, dampened intonation, and distorted sound. As such, musicians neglected to protect their hearing.
To combat these issues, Big Ear, Inc. developed The ONE® and they are custom-built Hearing Protection which:
• Are custom-fit to the individual’s ear for protection and comfort.
• Acclimate musicians to the use of earplugs.
• Are designed to attenuate across all sound frequencies.
￼• Have a dual filter system.
• Are constructed with soft-fit material.
• Come with three restriction orifices to gradually train the ear to
the earplug, thus eliminating muffled sounds and distorted tones.
• Come with a removable pop-cord.
The ONE® is the only product currently on the market designed to allow the musician to hear both themselves and others in a clear manner without limiting spatial awareness.
How The ONE® works?
The ONE® trains the ear to adapt to earplugs. The two-filter system consists of a nonlinear filter system and an interchangeable filter. The three interchangeable orifices allow the user to reduce the sound they hear. The filters are designed to adapt to the student’s practice and performance environment reducing noise levels by 9 dB, 15 dB, 20dB, and 25 dB.