Advice Clinic

How To Look After Your Hearing As A Musician

27th August 2017


Ears. Granted, they’re not the most attractive of appendages, but for the professional musician, they might just be the most important. The rock scene is full of tinnitus-plagued veterans who dearly wish they’d looked after their lugs. It’s too late for them – but there’s still time to save your hearing. Here’s how.

#1. Check the dials before you turn on your gear

We’ve all done it. You’ve been bouncing along a potholed road to rehearsals and your amp’s master volume has rolled itself fully up. You flick the power switch – and there’s a shriek of feedback like a banshee stapling its balls to a plank. Don’t let this happen.

#2. Don’t set the backline volume too loud

This isn’t 1971, and unless you’re a chronically insecure classic rocker with a courgette stuffed down your gusset, there’s no need to crank your Marshall stack up to ‘11’. Keep the backline grunt at sensible levels and you’ll not only get a better front-of-house sound, but won’t have to use an ear trumpet by the age of 35.

#3. Take a break

The average rock concert can hit 110 decibels – that’s about the level of a plane taking off – and cause temporary damage to the neurons in the inner ear, resulting in that infuriating post-gig wolf-whistle. Given a break, these cells will repair themselves after about 48 hours, but if you batter them again the following night, you risk making the damage permanent. Bottom line: alternate your black-metal gigs with a quiet night in and a cup of Horlicks.

#4. Use ear protection

Hoary old rockers in Judas Priest T-shirts will tell you that “real men play on 10” and that ear protection is for X Factor thumbsuckers. Ignore them, unless you want a mosquito living in your ear for the rest of your life. When band practice gets too loud, slip in a pair of earplugs. When you’re playing live, use in-ear monitors instead of the usual wedge. And if you’re ever tempted to go without for the sake of image, just remember: there is no cure for tinnitus.




Henry Yates

Henry Yates is a freelance journalist who has written for music magazines including Classic Rock, Total Guitar, Guitarist, NME and Metal Hammer, and brands including V Festival, Download, Epiphone, Yamaha, Roland and Universal. His proudest career moment was meeting Jimmy Page - and his toughest assignment was interviewing Pharrell Williams."