BLOG: Ear health is important, even on July 4

As we strapped on some studio isolation headphones over my daughter's ears moments before the July 4th Fireworks show began, I felt at ease. Thankfully, my daughter's hearing would be saved. For thousands of others, sadly, decibels of damage would occur to ears around the nation.

The famous Pete Townsend of The Who is now almost completely deaf, due to numerous rock and roll antics, including an exploding kick drum, cranked-up amps and louder-than-necessary monitoring in the studio. Townsend, a pioneer known for moving ahead the rock and roll and art rock scenes in the 70s and into present days, is now helping to spread the word about hearing loss (to those who can still hear, that is).

An image capture, courtesy of YouTube, directly before an explosion rips through the drum kit of Keith Moon of The Who in the 1970s. This situation, along with other studio and on-stage issues, have led to The Who's Pete Townsend experiencing hearing loss.

In my early days of metal shows, underground rock outfits in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska, and my own band's insane volume levels and feedback, I look back with glaring eyes and ringing in my ears. Thankfully, I have begun a crusade for better hearing health, and encouraging everyone I know to follow strict ear health whenever possible. 

Some things I do to assist with ear health: 

  • Mixing and mastering at low volume levels: not only does this help avoid possible damage to my ears, but it also assists with gain staging during mixing and ensuring ear fatigue does not occur. Meaning I can mix longer and more accurately for my Tone Tree Audio clients! All recording and post-production engineers should abide by this.
  • Wearing earplugs during concerts and live events: as much as possible, I have a pair of earplugs or isolation headphones with me during concerts or loud public events. Yes, it might reduce the squeals of guitar solos and top-end of the snare crack, but heck, I'd rather hear for the rest of my life than miss out on the 'total experience' of a concert. And (living in the United States) I want to be a part of July 4 events, but save my hearing (and my daughter's).
  • Isolation headphones at low to medium volumes during recording: While tracking musicians, I encourage them to monitor at lower levels to avoid hearing loss, and also (more of a plus for Tone Tree Audio) this avoids bleed-through into our microphones, making a better product for our clients. Future rock stars: take heed!
  •  Turn down the volume, please: for you subwoofer and blaring 'Car Stereo Junkies,' please turn down the volume. First off, sharing the love of your music tastes (in my humble opinion) is unnecessary, and second, you'll save your ears for years to come. Anytime you can turn down the volume knob, this is a good thing. You have the control at your fingertips and every right to do so.
  • Reduce ear fatigue by turning off sound sources: Do you ever wish, "I want to save my hearing AND save on the electric bill!" Well, now's your chance! If you have any fans, TV sets, radios, etc. in your house playing constantly just for background noise, shut them off. These additional sound sources are bound to distract your ears and fatigue them after awhile, and they are also munching up electric resources. Turn them off, done deal.
  • Avoid high-volume environments: This is not always possible, due to work conditions or other factors; but maybe take one or two nights off from the bar. Work on your music (see above tips first) instead of hitting the club every night, or choose a restaurant with a little more ambience (and less aggressiveness). Your ears will love you for it. 

Alright, I'll get off my soap box; but hey, following the above steps will have you and your ears singing high praises. And I love hearing my daughter talk to me, and feel good saving her hearing and teaching others about this necessity as we enter into another era of a 'More Noise, More Distractions' society.