I am a drummer who suffers from tinnitus. The constant ringing in my ears is something that I have gotten used to. That doesn’t mean that I have accepted it. I hate it. I wish it would stop. I started wearing ear plugs in 1993. I was nine years into my musical endeavors, but the damage was already done. It didn’t help that I fell asleep each night with headphones on. When the ringing started, I found myself trying to stop the advancement of the tinnitus, rather than eliminating it altogether. There are very few effective ways to eliminate tinnitus. My efforts to stop this progress have surely helped me to understand what musicians can do to take care of their hearing.
Ear plugs made of foam are usually the first type that a musician uses. They can be found at any drug store, and are usually sold next to silicone plugs, or earplugs that swimmers use. There are a few different styles of foam plugs, some with a sponge type feel, that are cylindrical shape. Others look more like a bullet, and have a smoother finish. Either type will certainly give you protection, but I find that the “bullet” shaped plugs tend to slip out of the ear as time goes on. The other issue I have with these plugs is that they tend to mute the incoming sound in ways that makes it harder to play drums at a proper level. I find myself hitting the drums harder, thus killing some of the overtones of the drum kit. Still, foam plugs work well to spare your ears, and they come with different levels of noise reduction capability.
Ear Plugs For Musicians
Musicians ear plugs are designed to reduce sounds evenly. You will see these plugs have flanges, and a central flange. There are two parts to this plug that work to reduce high and low frequencies. The diaphragm will take care of the lows, while the central flange helps to bring down the high notes and sounds. These plugs cost more, but can be reused.
In this category, you will also find the custom made ear plugs. I took the time to visit an audiologist, to have a mold made of ear canals. After taking a hearing test, the audiologist made that mold, and within a few days I had a pair of earplugs that fit my ears exclusively. They offer the best attenuation, and noise reduction. They certainly cost more than a box of foam plugs, but the fit and sound reduction made it an easy choice.
Finally, I must admit that I have a set of ear muffs, just like the kind you see the airport baggage handlers wearing. I wear those when recording the drums. The ear muffs allow me to first put on a pair of in-ear noise reducing headphones, and then I can put said earmuffs over the ear plugs. I use the headphones to play along with a click track, but have a second layer of sound reduction with the ear muffs. I also use the ear muffs during rehearsal, as they offer up a different type of sound for the listener. I tend to hear more of the lows when I wear them. I must admit that the bass guitar can bleed right through the ear muffs, so it’s best to remind your bass player to keep the volume down, if possible.