going deaf?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Baron Greenback, Dec 19, 2007.

  1. Baron Greenback

    Baron Greenback New Member

    i play bass. I'm worried i'm going deaf. is this common? is it possible to play a brass instrument while wearing personal protective equipment (earplugs in this case)??

  2. JimboFB

    JimboFB Active Member

    Nothing i've ever come accross personally, but i know our timp player sometimes sticks little plasic ear plugs in. He's in the army so maybe wears them in his day job :confused:

    I guess it depends on the kind of acoustic you play in and how close you sit to the percussion. If you close to a lound ringing cymbal it can leave a ringing in your ears! :shock:
  3. BrianT

    BrianT Member

    Wantage, Oxfordshire
    Hearing Protectors...

    You need to look after your hearing!

    There are lots of plugs available - none of the ones I've tried just reduce the volume - they all change the quality of the sound as well.

    Also, some are more discreet than others - you can look like a bit like Uhura with some of them. I use plugs designed for musical use and some in-ear industrial hearing protectors. I've found there's not much to choose between them really.

    All the passive plugs reduce the brightness of the sound, so it's harder to hear harmonics, fellow players' intake of breath, and many of the other other cues that aid intonation and ensemble. Also much sound gets to your ears by conduction through your skull, and this conducted sound can be offputting. (You can hear your tongue starting the notes, etc.)

    You can still hear dynamic changes, but the slope between quietest and loudest is more gentle (less damaging).

    I did one contest with plugs in (sat on the front row, where the volume was intense) and I took the plugs out during a quiet passage to help the ensemble.

    I expect the best (but most expensive) solution would be some sort of active design, like the in-ear monitors that are available.

    You should be able to get some plugs for less than a tenner, and if it saves you from tinitus or other hearing degradation then it's money well spent.
  4. hellyfrost

    hellyfrost Member

    Oldham again
    I'm deaf in my right ear and have been since birth, so my left ear compensates massively. The only times people realise is when they're stood on my right gabbing away and I have no idea they're even talking to me, and when I'm in a busy/crowded place and someone shouts me and I have no idea where their voice is coming from! lol:p
    My left ear has been deteriorating very slowly and will continue to do so, but my consultant says as long as I don't spend more than four continuous hours a week in a loud/noisy place, it won't accelerate the deterioration :)
    It does depend on location though, if I'm in a small band room I notice that my hearing is affected afterwards, but if I'm in a larger room, or there's an audience to soak up the sound better, my hearing is just fine. :rolleyes:
  5. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    You might find this link helpful reading (and the BTA's site in general). You can buy "musicians ear plugs" though I've no idea what its like to play with them in - pretty weird I should imagine as in-ear earplugs will tend to exaggerate the mechanics of playing (ie the tonguing action etc).

    This is actually something I worry about too - I've become aware recently that my hearing on my right side (ie the side towards the band) isn't as it should be - and this is something I'm going to get checked out in the New Year. Incidentally the HSE's recommendations for exposure to noise have recently been tightened - for an 8 hour stint the maximum is now 80dBA not 85dBA as it was, which is giving me as a machinery designer some serious headaches (now having to design in double-glazed guards with an inert Argon gas- filled void for some of our noisier machinery).

    I think this is going to be something we hear (no pun intended!!) about more and more. I don't know what the average volume is for a 2-hour band rehearsal but for a decent band I'd say it's got to be easily up in the region of 85dB with odd peaks of much, much more (I'm guessing >100dB). Bear in mind that 3dB is just about twice the volume and as such the exposure time should come down proportionally, then if I'm right in my guesses / assumptions then bands are pretty close to being out of the HSE's standards for basic safety!
  6. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    There are specially designed musician's earplugs available and have to be custom made ... I know of one top player who had them fitted to protect his lugs from another top player sitting behind him. Didn't seem to affect his playing at all!

    - sample or even here. The ones I've seen advertised seem expensive though!
  7. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    I've just remembered I started a thread about how loud bands could play aaages ago. Although it was more to do with soundproofing there were a few replies which might be of interest - and some other sources for ear-plugs.

    The thread is here:

  8. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Whilst ear plugs protect your hearing, you will probably struggle to hear yourself playing. I suffer from damage to my right ear caused by someone knocking the s*** out of a bass drum next to me about 10 years ago.

    In professional orchestras, hearing damage/protection is taken very seriously, as the ability to play is someone's living, no just a hobby. Most orchestras nowadays provide perspex screens for players who want them. They consist of a transparent screen, about 3' square with edges that curve inwards. It is mounted on a stand which adjusts in height and placed directly behind the player's head. Whilst the player can still hear what's going on, they are protected from the initial shock of percussion/brass fortissimo sounds which cause the damage.

    I quite often sit with screens between myself and the violas.
  9. Anonymous_user

    Anonymous_user New Member


    I too have the same problem, Daft, I mean Deaf in the right ear at birth!
    All of above goes for me also.
    My left ear is now at around 48% effective after all these years of playing.
    People wonder how I play at the level I do. Its a simple answer of "what you have never had, you never need!!

    Simon Gresswell
  10. tubaloopy

    tubaloopy Member

    Yours is also a deafness that comes and goes isn't it Simon?

    "What you having Simon?"
    "Lager please."

    "Simon, it's you round!"
  11. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Even 10 years ago (when it was less of an issue than it is now) when I worked for the halle we were often asked to provide them for the woodwind players who sat in front of the trombones. It was something of a bone (no pun intended) of contention, as the trombonists complained that it affected their ability to hear the rest of the orchestra - not sure how much of an issue that was, or whether they were just trying to annoy the bassoonists! Nowadays the HSE are involved in a consultation with the Association of British Orchestras on how to keep within the legislation, as a symphony orchestra playing something like Gurrelieder or Mahler 8 is going to be regularly generating well in excess of 80dB. This is usually described as a level at which you would have to raise your voice for a person 6 feet away to hear you.

    Bearing that in mind, I think it's fairly inevitable that any brass band of a reasonable championship standard is going to be generating sound levels around the same sort of level. As most modern test-pieces are fairly heavy on the percussion (and sudden percussive sounds are more damaging, as Duncan^ found to his cost), it's fairly safe to say that there's quite a risk of hearing damage from playing in the top section for a number of years. The actual risk would depend on how long your band is playing at high dynamics, where you sit in relation to other instruments and how regularly you go to band.

    But it's no worse than the risk posed by, say, going to nightclubs or live pop gigs on a regular basis, or regularly going shooting, or even regularly attending football matches with big, vocal, crowds. As BrianT said earlier, normal earplug or ear defenders simply reduce all sound, so your ability to hear intonation and dynamics would be impaired. I haven't tried the musicians earplugs (we don't usually need them in the lower echelons!) but assuming they work, that's probably your best solution. They might be expensive, but it's hard to put a price on your hearing.
  12. TubaPete

    TubaPete Member

    I have had very mild tinnitus now for about 25 years, I believe as a result of brass band playing. It doesn't really affected my playing and is only slowly affecting my overall hearing.

    I can remember first being aware of it in a Yorkshire Schools Brass Band (BBAYS) recording session in the Mezzanine room at the old Leeds College of Music/Civic Theatre building in about 1981. The main times I'm aware of it are:

    1. when I'm very tired;
    2. when I wear earplugs (the reduced sound levels make it harder for me to focus on what i want to and easier to hear the tinnitus artefacts);
    3. when I go to live rock gigs; and
    4. when cornets are playing in close harmony in the middle of the stave (good job I play bass) - even at relatively low dynamic levels.

    The only one that appears to actually cause pain (rather than irritation) is the cornet playing...

    As an interesting aside, I put a Sound Pressure Level meter on my stand in band practice about 5 years ago (in our old bandroom) whilst we warmed up with some hymns. The level got to 80db at a reasonable f and a strong, sustained fff was close to 100db. These readings would of course be different in a different sized space and with different players in different positions.

  13. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    In the other thread we established that a top Championship section band could probably hit a peak of around 115dB - sadly the post was lost when tMP's servers crashed. But just out of interest according to the HSE at 98dB any sustained exposure over 7 1/2 minutes would result in permanent hearing damage, for 101dB that halves to just under 3 minutes. While its unlikely that a band would play at those levels for that amount of time in one hit (you'd be talking of a long passage of ff in a slow movement, which I can't think of any examples just now) it's amazing how close we are. And has already been said by Anno Draconis sudden, loud, percussive sounds are more damaging and there are plenty of sudden, loud, percussive sounds in the average modern test piece!!

    While I'm not suggesting we all go round to you local composer's house demanding compo. or saying we should all play pp and no louder, I do find it interesting that going to band practice, or to a club, or a gig will subject you to levels of sound that would get a company in trouble if you were exposed to them at your place of work - even as a one-off. Its also interesting that if those 98dB were being made by the bloke next to you whacking ten bells out of a bit of sheet metal you wouldn't stand it for two hours either!!
  14. on_castors

    on_castors Member

    I have had some hearing loss for a good few years, and measurements indicate it to be exactly similar frequencies to industrial type, yet I have not worked in noisy places, so can only put it down to Bands - not even banding at the top level, (1st downwards) although like the original poster, I am ostensibly a Bass player, frequently spending a lot of time in SMALL rehearsal rooms over the years, & stuck amazingly close to various enthusiastic percussion too!

    Add a family tendency to Menieres disease, and subsequent tinnitus for good measure, I do notice problems, but it rarely affects my day to day life, however telephones have become a real problem for me, and I go to all sorts of lengths to avoid phone calls, and when I must use a phone for something important, (other than social chit chat) it has to be WITH a headset. Face to face speech is not often a problem, but like with industrial hearing loss, I struggle a lot when there is other sound around, so picking a conversation out when there are lots of conversations going on around me is a non-starter.

    At last year's Area contest (at that SLUM of a Workingmen's club in Burton upon Trent) I was most interested to see the noise limiting equipment they had installed - obviously not able to do much with a Band as it can only trip out with electronic instruments, but while most bands were on, it spent a LOT of time in the RED zone indicating it would be silencing those instruments if it could!
  15. Mrs Fruity

    Mrs Fruity Member

    North East
    My husband (a bass player) maintains that it's the low frequencies involved with bass playing which cause the deafness, not the decibels. And yes he's deaf too, but I think that it's more selective than bass-related! ;)
  16. brassintheed

    brassintheed Member

    I have played in brass bands for 21 years now and didnt have a problem until the last couple of years. Started noticing I was struggling hearing people speak in the pub or when there's alot of background noise.

    Went for a hearing test and apparantly I've become partially deaf to high frequencies. The doctor immediately asked if I worked in a high decibel environment at work as that's what normally causes it. When I finally thought about bands, he said it's extremely common for musicians (especially where a large amount of brass is involved)

    He also asked if I sat anywhere near a loud high pitched instrument...... For the last 4 or 5 years I've played rep!!!

    So there's not much I can do about it, and I'm not about to give up playing, but it's definitely an issue. (PS one advantage for blokes getting high frequency loss - it's harder to hear the other half! ;) )
  17. DanB

    DanB Member

    I'm somewhat deaf in my left ear, the consultant tried to work out why and I soon as I mentioned I played the trombone in a brass band he said that would explain it... so it's definitely a potential problem that those in the know seem to be aware of.

    I've done shows where, size constraints of the pit mean the brass section are all virtually on top of each other - we recently used perspex screens with no problems. One word of warning though - if anyone's thinking of earplugs DO go for the ones specifically designed for musicians: Apparently wearing the really tight-fitting foam ones while playing a brass instrument can actually damage your ear drums, therefore having exactly the opposite effect to desired. Might not be true, but is it worth the risk??!
  18. matt_BBb_bass

    matt_BBb_bass Member

    Hey im a bass player to and have the same problem! This year we lost one of our B band basses because he was going deaf because of our percussion! We have 5 Percussionist and they really do hit it out! My hearing is going alot worst! + its sort of worrying me seen as im only 16!!

  19. toby hobson

    toby hobson Member

    when cornets are at a certain pitch, playing long notes (which i do a lot of with my pupils) i notice a slightly irritating rattle in my ears, a bit like when you have been swimming and have water in there. I also have been noticing a struggle to hear people in a crowd situation i.e picking out what a person is saying to me while in a group situation. I have been meaning to go to the docs but have been to busy for months now.

    I recon its not so much the brass players in the band although i have sat next to some of the loudest in banding history!!

    Its the drums, our program for many a year was made up of Howard Snell epics with Minster or Pines being on every program for at least ten years, the gong and bass drum at times were ridiculesly loud, I wouldnt be at all supprised if its effected me in the long run............i wouldnt have it any other way though.................fantastic!!!!!!!!
  20. PSB Tom

    PSB Tom Member

    My hearing goes in one ear when I stand/sit next to a certain bass player with one hell of a sound. Mentioning no names.
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