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Can You Hear Me?
I was fortunate to have a dad who took an interest in my welfare as I was growing up. Over the years, he did a lot of things for my well-being. I can remember when I first went to study drums with Joe Morello. Because my dad read somewhere that loud drumming and music was bad for your hearing, he purposely tested Joe's hearing by speaking softly. Although Joe passed the test with flying colors, my dad was right on track. Had Joe been a Heavy Metal drummer, he may well have failed the test.
I know this week's article is not the most exciting one I've ever written, but it's probably the most important one you'll ever read. Hearing is a musician's most important tool and I don't know how you feel, but a future society of deaf drummers doesn't do a thing for me! So stick around and let's learn what you can do to protect your "hearing chops."
Everyone is in Danger
Know Your Decibels
Following is a chart (data courtesy of the Deafness Research Foundation) that relates various decibel levels to real life sounds:
Normal sound levels that are NOT damaging to your hearing:
Decibel Level.....Real Life Example
Constant Exposure to the following sound levels CAN impair hearing:
Decibel Level......Real Life Example
Too Loud for Too Long = Danger!
Every time you feel pain, hear ringing in your ears, or have trouble hearing following exposure to loud music or other sounds, your hearing is being damaged to a certain degree. At the beginning, this hearing loss is only temporary and returns to normal soon after you remove yourself from the source of the noise. But hearing damage is cumulative, and it sneaks up on you. It gradually gets worse over months and years of continuous exposure, until one day you'll find you're having trouble hearing the band leader counting off; or maybe you'll freak trying to find the source of a constant ringing noise that turns out to be in your own head. That ringing condition is known as tinnitus.
Experts agree that loud music and noise is not the only cause of tinnitus. It can be caused by lots of things from ear infections to allergies to antibiotics. (I had bad acne as a teenager and I believe my daily regimen of antibiotics is what caused my condition.) Some people, Barbra Streisand for example, are born with tinnitus. However, the most common cause seems to be cumulative overexposure to those damaging decibel levels. So if you abuse your ears now, you can look forward to one of two things later in life: Going deaf or going daft from constant ringing in your ears.
But there are ways you can play your Acid Rock all night long and still hear a pin drop, well into your 90's. How? It's easy.
What does matter is that you find a pair of earplugs that you can afford, that you can live with, and that you'll actually wear - every time you play. To that end, I offer you my Hearing Protection Resource (see the sidebar) and this final word of advice: Get some hearing protection now and USE IT. Remember, you're better off doing it before you discover a problem that you may have to live (and drum) with for the rest of your life.
Until next time: Stay loose - and keep your hearing healthy.
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