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Author Topic: Ears - the most important gear  (Read 17918 times)

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Offline checht

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Ears - the most important gear
« on: August 28, 2023, 09:13:30 PM »
Just got my latest audiogram, and it hasn’t changed in 9 years now. That’s a bit odd in terms of aging and physiology, but also great news in terms of the hundreds of shows I’ve seen during that time, many with sound levels peaking at 110db. This confirmed that my use of custom ear plugs has been a win. At least for me, generics didn’t protect enough.

Our ears are the most important link in the recording chain, and worth spending some thought and cash on protecting.

From comparing mics, to finding the sweet spot in a venue, to mixing and mastering, it all depends on hearing. These days I use Etymotics customs with 15db filters, as they’re nearly flat. Show sounds the same with them in, just a bit quieter.

My audiogram is attached below. Huge dip around 4k, somewhat standard w age. The curve is roughly normal for a 70 year old, and I’m 60, so those early years without plugs took a toll. I was an ignorant 23 year old, and stood too close to side fills at Dead shows. Can’t change that, but can hold on to what I’ve still got.

Final note: for folks running Apple pods, one can input one’s audiogram into accessibility on the iPhone, and iOS will run a reverse eq curve to compensate for any loss. Pretty amazing improvement…

Thanks for reading this far; now go get your ears tested, molded, and send away for plugs. You’ll never regret it!

Edited for clarity
« Last Edit: August 28, 2023, 10:56:10 PM by checht »
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Online robgronotte

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2023, 09:33:00 PM »
How did you get this?

Online billydee

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2023, 10:34:21 PM »
Here's mine from earlier this year. Same 4k dip which apparently is quite common with age.   :headphones:

« Last Edit: August 28, 2023, 10:37:44 PM by billydee »

Offline checht

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2023, 10:49:39 PM »
How did you get this?
Every other year I have an appointment with an audiologist, who tests my hearing in an anechoic chamber. Also removes any ear wax buildup, a bonus.
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Offline robeti

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2023, 05:32:32 PM »
Love the topic title. So true! Thanks for reminding us all!
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Offline RyanJ

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2023, 05:51:54 PM »
I get a yearly hearing test ever since my tinnitus started getting bad. I've worn earplugs at every show I've ever gone to. But I suffer from it whether it's the chronic ear infections as a kid that has made them more sensitive. Or that one time I got popped under the chin by an all american linebacker's helmet that produced my TMJ. My audiologist says it's more conductive than loss through the fibers.

I'll definitely try that airpod upload. Would be cool to see how that sounds. Next time I get a test!
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Offline opsopcopolis

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2023, 01:04:14 AM »
I think I have a copy of mine somewhere that showed a bit more than average loss for my age, and slightly asymmetric. My tinnitus comes and goes, but seems to be more situational/health related than overuse. Less sleep, congested, etc leads to much worse tinnitus for a week or two.

Offline voltronic

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2023, 06:53:06 AM »
This is an important thread, and I hope younger folks reading this take it seriously. Remember that exposure time has a big impact on damage potential.

It's also worth noting that a typical audiogram only shows a limited frequency band, mainly the range of audible speech. For those who work with music, it might be worth asking your audiologist if they can do full range tests.

I have used the cheap non-custom Ety plugs since the early 2000's, and they really are great for loud concerts. There's no perceptible HF rolloff and you forget you have them in. I'm a huge fan of the brand in general, and use my ER4XR IEMs in really loud places such as when flying. Over 30 dB isolation makes the engines very quiet. My opinion is that noise isolating is typically more effective than noise cancelling.
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Offline detroit lightning

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2023, 09:12:01 AM »
First damaged my ears at a show almost 25 years ago, have had some tinnitus ever since. Fought using earplugs for a while, but ever since getting fit for some molded musicians plugs years back I've never regretted it. Wish I'd known at 19 what I know at 42, but that can be said for a lot of things...

Good earplugs are absolutely worth it, especially if you're someone who loves music enough to be involved in a community like this.

Offline rocksuitcase

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2023, 10:15:07 AM »
61 yo. HJAd my hearing tested 2 years ago as my wife insisted. The audiologist came back with a very normal, my rt ear has a slight dip at 4kHz, but she said it was almost "20-20" to cross disciplines.
Said to tell my wife I'm just loud, not deaf!!!

Now, to voltronics point": young people: PLEASE wear hearing protectors!!! anything helps, yes, customs are great, but ANYTHING helps. in the old days (early 1980's, we would use cotton balls if we had no plugs. My mentor in the studio had been an FOH guy for FM productions in the mid 1970's. He was so deaf and had tinnitus badly from working on some loud PA's. I once took a shot in the right ear if white noise while standing on a speaker scaffold. luckily, I had protectors on. Rock n Roll and EDM music can get LOUD. Everyone practice safe hearing strategies.

I currently work at a construction company and they wear these: https://www.amazon.com/3M-Peltor-Skull-Earplugs-120-Pair/dp/B0017X8682     
« Last Edit: August 30, 2023, 01:22:24 PM by rocksuitcase »
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Offline checht

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2023, 10:57:36 AM »
Great point, Rock, anything is better than nothing.

I've advised folks to use their earbuds when they forgot plugs...
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Offline goodcooker

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2023, 11:11:47 AM »

I use these - https://eargasm.com/?gad=1&gclid=Cj0KCQjw0bunBhD9ARIsAAZl0E31L3CY-4MxLLLFZbTStS5BcuXZEEXWw6SHamzbsvNMd0exs8nk7hIaAmwtEALw_wcB - affordable and effective.

I've forgotten my plugs a few times lately and have to retreat to the back of the room.

I'm due for a visit to the audiologist. Been years.
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Offline aaronji

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2023, 11:36:55 AM »
I really like the Earasers EU standard version (https://www.earasers.shop). Very comfortable, effective, and low-profile. They are "ear specific" (i.e., there is a left and a right one) and curved a little so they fit really well. Leaves the music almost entirely intact.

A few years back, I went to a deafeningly loud show (Caspian); it was heavy enough that my guts were rumbling, but, with the Earasers, not bothersome to my ears. When I left the venue and popped out the plugs, I realized how loud it must have been because all of the other people were shouting at each other. I bought a backup pair a couple of days later...

Offline rocksuitcase

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2023, 01:25:08 PM »
Great point, Rock, anything is better than nothing.   

I've advised folks to use their earbuds when they forgot plugs...
Love you my brother!
I was told by an Apple genius that the airpods without music will still reduce incoming signals by about -10/15dB. Of course that assumes well fitted earbuds.    ;)
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Ears - the most important gear
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2023, 01:45:19 PM »
Hear, here!

I've gone through multiple pairs of non-custom plugs that are more balanced than foam plugs, but currently need another set.  Always good to have extra foam ones on hand just in case and nice to have extras for others.  Of the foam plugs, I find the classic yellow barrel-shaped ones to sound more balanced than the bullet shaped ones when used as I mention below. Its not only the shape, the foam material they are made from is different as well.

A few tips on using standard foam plugs, and a good option for when you have none available but need hearing protection-

● Standard foam plugs work much, much better in the perceptual sense if you put them in well before it gets loud.  Your brain then has time to adjust to fully adjust to the change.  Then once the music starts it will sound much more natural and considerably less muffled.  If you wait to put them in until after the music has started and you find yourself thinking "its loud, I should put ear-plugs in", its too late in terms of achieving a more balanced perception of the sound.  The opposite occurs since your hearing mechanism has already taken what precautions it has available to it when subjected to high SPLs and your brain has already accustomed itself to those high energy levels and frequency balance as being "correct" so that insertion of the ear-plugs at that point will cause everything to sound far more muffled.  But do it anyway as its never too late in terms of protecting your hearing!

● I often put them in as audience is arriving and the ambient sound level starts increasing. Once adjusted to the sound I have no problem hearing conversations before the music starts.  The most difficult part is talking to other folks at an appropriate level.  It can be difficult to judge how loud to speak, so its easy to either end up speaking too softly to be heard, or realizing that, over-compensating and talking too loudly.  If you do this and take them out to check or talk more intimately with someone, its is amazing to realize how loud the room becomes before the music even starts.

● Unless very little protection is needed, I find the foam plugs work best, both in terms of protection and in terms of achieving a more balanced frequency perception when fully inserted so that the outside edge is flush with my ear opening and the plug is axially compressed along its full length as well as radially compressed withing the ear-canal.  That maximizes low frequency attenuation with a good seal, while attenuating high frequencies somewhat less than they will be if some uncompressed plug is left hanging outside of the ear-canal.  The response is flatter that way.  Can sometimes be a challenge to dig them back out though.

● If no plugs are available, a method that is somewhat gross, yet works nearly as well is to grab a cocktail napkin or some other piece of paper or light cardboard.  Rip off a square and chew it up good into pulp, then form that into plug and use it like you would a foam one.  The chewing mashes the fibers and the saliva holds it together, creates a far better seal, aids insertion, and makes wearing them more comfortable. If this grosses you out, try it to see how well it works and you may well get over it.  Do it discretely and one else needs to know.
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