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The Value Of Listening

I suffer from tinnitus (the perception of sound within the human ear in the absence of corresponding external sound.) Which is caused by loud music and could happen at anytime at a gig in a night club, even someone shouting down your ear can cause it as well in ear headphone, as they direct the sound without a chance for it to bounce off anywhere

It’s basically that ringing you get after a loud activity but none stop. I hear it 100% of the time it makes it hard to sleep without some noise in the background. I can even intensify the ringing with jaw movement e.g opening my mouth

And it can’t be cured.

So it’s pretty life changing adapting to the ring.

Taken from Wikipedia.

"The ear can be exposed to short periods in excess of 120 dB without permanent harm — albeit with discomfort and possibly pain; but long term exposure to sound levels over 80 dB can cause permanent hearing loss"

dB isn't the volume itself but the pressure of sound waves. Think of a speaker cone moving up and down that causes air pressure to build up. You can have something silent and over 170dB which is enough to kill you. Watch the Mythbusters episode when they create of 42inch speaker cone attached to the transmission of a car for the more accurate explanation of PPI and it's relationship with dB's

I’ve been in live music environments for years and have more of less had band practice every Thursday for 6 years. Which has caused the problem

I started to use ear plugs to keep it from getting any worse. And to be honest i’ve made a great and interesting discovery!

I went for a pair from amazon specially for live music as with the spongy ones you see in industry and bouncers block out all the noise rather then reducing volume and removing certain frequencies. As a bassist i’ve got ones that keep the low end but remove the high end noise to create something more in level with rest of the instruments. I also struggle with high end frequencies without ear plugs and i’ve narrowed down the guitar and cymbals as the likely cause of my ear problems.

It’s still important that i hear what i’m playing and the drummer itself but it cuts out a lot of the guitar and reduces the vocal volume level.

It took a while to get use to playing with them in. I was taking a lot of visual ques from my band mates rather then hearing which part of the song we’re specifically at. The more you play songs the more your muscle memory kicks in and playing songs become habit. I can play our song Hang The Bastard blind folded and still hit all the notes.

It was also strange at first singing as well. If you put your fingers in your ears and talk it’s more or less the same, so it took a long time to adjust to that as i was never quite sure if i was singing in tune or it sounded any good. The more i played with them in the easier it’s become to adjust my voice to the situation, environment and style of song.

The more I practiced the easier it became to hear all the instruments at the same volume which means you’re relying on making sure your amp settings match those of the others. I was cranking up the bass high to compensate for the flat volume level only to drown out the guitar. But tipexing your amp settings solved that problem. or if you change it for various song you just take a picture.

On stage at venues was a different story. I found it a lot easier play without the plugs as all the sound was being pushed out from us and i have very specific monitor requirements which is WHY YOU SOUND CHECK! I didn’t see the need to wear them, however certain venues crank the PA to such a volume that it’s really really uncomfortable to stand there and listen to. So i’ve now started using them on stage as well.

I’ve worn them at other gigs to find that facing the stage becomes a lot more enjoyable because i can hear everything at a safe volume and it’s crystal clear. Think of it more as high definition sound (which i know doesn’t exist) you get all the clarity without any of the white noise that comes with amplified music. I’m thinking to myself why doesn’t more people i know use ear plugs at gigs or at night clubs. Sure i’m suffering with the ringing anyway but i tell you now it’s no where as near bad as the couple of days after a show, which plagues many gig goers.

I also used them when i was filming night club events. 4 hours nonstop music is damaging and the best thing about night clubs with ear plugs is no need to shout down my ear for me to hear. You can talk at a reasonable volume and you can hear the person perfectly.

So if i can give you one piece of advice - buy a pair. They will save you. It’s neglectful to your own body not to invest. For a tenner you can save your hearing and a lot of sleepless nights. You’ll hear a different world and enjoy music a lot more. No post gig ringing.

You’ve only got one set of ears. i’ve destroyed mine now, but don’t let the same thing happen to you.

You’re a fool not to after reading this. You’re aware it could happen to anyone and with some time and practice it doesn’t effect your standards or ability to play music. Or effect your enjoyment of music.

CJ Smith

CJ is bass player for Manchester punk band Dead Retinas - check out his band here www.facebook.com/deadretinas

CJ also started making the #supportthescene posters after Designer Magazine set up the twitter hashtag

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