RSS Feed

Category Archives: Musician Hearing Loss

What Beats by Dre Are Actually Doing to Your Ears

Dr. Dre

Last week, Apple purchased Beats Music for $3 billion — the largest acquisition the company has ever made. With it, the company acquired Dr. Dre and longtime Interscope Geffen A&M Records executive Jimmy Iovine, the men behind Beats and a “sound revolution” who are actually doing irrevocable damage to our ability to appreciate music.

They aren’t alone in it. Beats is just the biggest representative of the cultural trend of constant headphone use, and the silent epidemic that has come with it.

Dre and Iovine’s headphones are engineered so that you “hear your music the way the artist would play it back” — specifically, the way hip-hop and rap artists, like Dre, would want to play it back: with a lot of bass, in the way that leads to hearing loss. For most high-quality headphone brands, that’s the sell.

Beats’ headphones have been flaunted in rap music videos and touted as expensive fashion accessories, creating a commercialized hip-hop culture that stems from the celebrity of Dre’s production history. As a result, much of Beats’ engineered appeal is in its emphasis on low, bass-heavy frequencies of the “Xxplosive” sort. It makes sense: Rap and hip-hop are often characterized by their heavy, booming bass lines. And while a human ear normally registers frequencies anywhere between 20 Hz and 20 kHz (or 20,000 Hz), the sub-bass sounds in rap songs, like a classic 808 drum kick, will range as low as 80 to 20 Hz. The lowest A on a piano, for example, vibrates somewhere around 25 Hz. In order to hear those notes, you have turn the volume way up.

Frequencies that are often “felt” through stereo systems are what Beats and other high-end headphones aim for — that’s the way the artist produced it in the studio. But sometimes, those bass-heavy details can be too much. While Beats can recreate the feel of a tight, punchy bassline, a boomier backdrop, like Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M,” has the tendency to overpower and weaken a song’s mid-tones, things like guitars and voices. So in addition to having louder bass from the get-go, listeners often turn up headphone volume in order to hear those higher frequencies, and consequently “feeling” the bass affects our ears even more. Deeper bass means louder playback, especially when we’re listening to the sort of hyper-compressed, ear-fatiguing music that is associated with mainstream pop and hip-hop. And it’s nothing new that prolonged exposure to loud music, especially through headphones, causes hearing loss.

It’s considered safe listening to music at 85 decibels or lower. Crank your Beats all the way up to their 115-decibel peak (the kind of volumes you might reach when on a loud train) and you could experience severe hearing loss after just 15 minutes of listening every day. When our ears are frequently exposed to high decibels, the inner ears’ hair-like fibers, called stereocilia, which are responsible for activating frequencies of particular sounds, can be permanently damaged over time. This can lead to noise-induced hearing loss, which is often ignored, or tinnitus — aka that buzzing in your ears after a night of loud music. Even though that buzz may be gone by the morning, its damaging effects can linger.

And we may just keep turning it up. While many have already anticipated a deafness epidemic, it seems increasingly likely. In 2010, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 1 in 5 U.S. teens already suffer from hearing loss, and 1 in 20 have “mild or worsening” symptoms. So if Beats is leading a sonic revolution, it’s worth remembering: Sometimes revolutions end badly.



New Social Media


Guitarist Paul Langlois Diagnosed With Sudden Hearing Loss

Paul Langlois of the Canadian band The Tragically Hip lost all hearing in his right ear.

The sentence “Let’s just see what the morning brings”, from The Tragically Hip song Wheat kings, turned out to have extra significance for one of the band’s members, namely guitarist Paul Langlois.

As the Canadian rock band, referred to as The Hip, was recording its album, Now for Plan A, guitarist Paul Langlois suddenly lost all hearing in his right ear, resulting in him becoming completely deaf on his right side.

The Hip-guitarist was diagnosed with sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), a relatively rare condition which involves the onset of unexplained one-sided deafness.

Early treatment for sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) may potentially save a person’s hearing. Most people recover from the condition, but about 15% have hearing loss which continues to worsen. Further treatment may involve various types of hearing aid or cochlear implants.

The “New Normal”

Being diagnosed with sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) left The Tragically Hip-guitarist Paul Langlois in an anxious state. He feared that his music career would be over if he lost the ability to sing in key.

Paul Langlois (far left), member of Tragically Hip, suffers sudden hearing loss.

Paul Langlois (far left), member of Tragically Hip, suffers sudden hearing loss.

A small blessing for the guitarist, however, was that the band was in the studio recording and not on the road. This allowed Paul Langlois more time to get used to and adjust to ‘the new normal’.

Musical and social adjustment

Following the diagnosis of sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), Paul Langlois always plays on the right side of the stage while touring with The Tragically Hip. This means that the band is on the guitarist’s left side, where his good ear is. Paul Langlois’ condition therefore does not force him to switch the way the band lines up onstage.

With time, the guitarist has adjusted both musically and socially to the sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) in his right ear. From being anxious and worried about his musical future, The Tragically Hip-member has become more relaxed about his condition.

Source: The Calgary Herald

New Social Media

Former Oasis Guitar Player Noel Gallagher Diagnosed With Tinnitus

The former Oasis star Noel Gallagher has been diagnosed with tinnitus, the hearing condition which causes ringing in the ears.


Noel Gallagher joins the list of famous rock musicians who suffer from tinnitus.

After having played guitar for the last 20 years, Noel Gallagher has received a diagnosis for the constant ringing in his ears. The 45-year-old musician went for a brain scan at the hospital, where doctors uncovered tinnitus as being the reason for the recurring buzzing in his ears.

“I went for a brain scan. They did find it. I’ve got bizarre ringing in my ears. I think it’s just through playing guitar for the last 20 years so I had to sit in a tube in the hospital,” Noel Gallagher said in an interview with the British DJ Andy Goldstein.

Noel Gallagher performing at Coachella with his band Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Rock musicians suffer from tinnitus. A high-level volume combined with heavy bass tones has been part of most musicians’ careers. Rock bands in particular are well-known for their habit of reaching volumes that are perilously close to causing severely-reduced hearing and tinnitus.

For instance, Coldplay front man Chris Martin, Queen drummer Roger Taylor and The Who’s Pete Townshend have on earlier occasions talked about their sufferings from tinnitus.

Pete Townshend walks off stage saying the sound was just too loud for his ears

This past year at a show in Sunrise, Florida, Pete Townshend, who has battled with tinnitus and hearing loss for many years, left a show during an encore of ‘You Better You Bet’. Before leaving the stage, Townshend reportedly appeared unhappy with the sound levels onstage, shouting “too loud” at the sound engineer before walking off. When the rest of the band continued into ‘Baba O’ Riley’ to end the show, he didn’t reappear.

Hearing loss can be prevented. Being exposed to loud noises is a natural part of everyday life for many people, be it at work, in traffic or at a café. Preventative measures may therefore be paramount in situations such as rock concerts, where it is common to be exposed to noise levels above the recommended maximum level of 85dB.

A set of earplugs can make a huge difference when exposed to loud music or other noises. They can be bought in most pharmacies and supermarkets, and when employed can reduce noise by 20-30dB.

Good Advice. Veteran guitar player Paul Gilbert (from Mr. Big and Racer X) has hearing loss that is so bad that he now is forced to wear hearing aids. Gilbert

Rock guitar player Paul Gilbert suffers from hearing loss and now wears hearing aids

Rock guitar player Paul Gilbert suffers from hearing loss and now wears hearing aids

wishes he had done a few things differently in his life. He wishes he had followed the following simple advice when he was younger and he also wishes that he could still follow a conversation without experiencing problems.

Paul Gilbert has therefore compiled a list of things he would advise other musicians and music lovers to do if they want to retain their hearing and avoid tinnitus. Among other things:

  • Do not sit with your ears right up next to your speakers when music is playing, regardless of how much you love the sound and the music.
  • Do not turn your headphones up too loud when, for example, listening to your favourite number.
  • Do not crank-up your car stereo when you’re out driving.
  • If you are a musician and in the studio, you should not sit and record for 14 hours a day with the metronome turned right up in your headphones.
  • Do not try and edit music in spaces which are not suitable for the job. This can lead to frustration and confusion around the acoustic image and can often result in you turning up the volume even more so as to get a better picture of the individual instruments.
  • Don’t play cool in situations where the music is too loud. Put your fingers in your ears or leave the room.

New Social Media

DJ rocks despite hearing loss

Robbie Wilde thumbs through his iPhone as the sounds of voices and clinking glasses bounce all around him. His eyes never leave the phone’s screen.

During New York Fashion Week, Wilde, 27, passes the time with friends and management at an exclusive party in Hell’s Kitchen before taking over the turntables.

Wilde lives in a world of rhythm and bass. He just can’t hear it.

Ear infections at age 7 left Wilde completely deaf in his right ear and took away 80% of his hearing in his left one.

It would be another four years before doctors would confirm what his mother, Maria Sapeta, dreaded: Her son was deaf.

“It was heartbreaking as a mother,” she recalled. “It was probably one of the hardest days of my life. But Robbie was the one who gave me a hug and said, ‘Don’t

Wilde relies on technology to see the music and differentiate between vocals, bass and kicks.

Wilde relies on technology to see the music and differentiate between vocals, bass and kicks.


Originally from Portugal, Sapeta and her husband, Emidio, then a cruise ship chef, had moved to the United States when Wilde was 5.

From childhood, he always had a “persistent personality,” Sapeta said, laughing. Unlike many other kids his age, he always finished what he started — from puzzles to cabins made from Lincoln Logs.

After losing his hearing, his grades slipped because he had difficulty understanding his teachers. Bullied in school, Wilde usually kept his deafness a secret.

When his parents suggested he attend a specialty school, he insisted on staying in public school. He worked with a speech therapist and began reading lips.

“I grew up in a way that I don’t want any sympathy. I don’t want to be treated differently,” he said. “I just tried to maneuver around, reading lips and trying to hear my own way.”

When her son announced he wanted to be a professional DJ instead of joining the family restaurant business, Sapeta was cautiously supportive.

“We could see his talent and his passion, but I kept worrying about that left ear,” she said. “Anything to stop his dreams, he didn’t want it.”

Hearing is the most important sense for a DJ, who manipulates music, scratches records and uses mixers. But Wilde was determined to succeed without his.

Always drawn to music, he discovered turntables in high school through a friend’s brother who was a DJ.

Wilde got his first shot at performing as a DJ at his father’s restaurant outside Newark, New Jersey, nearly a decade ago, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“I still consider it as a hobby. I really do love it,” Wilde said. “I don’t see it as a job, and that’s the best part.”

Wilde started out playing CDs before pushing himself to scratch records, something he knew he needed help with.

A tattoo on Wilde's right ear reads, "Out of Order."

A tattoo on Wilde’s right ear reads, “Out of Order.”

“It’s a hard business alone for the hearing community,” he said, “And I was like, ‘I’m hearing impaired and how’s that going to work?'”

So he paired up with two-time DMC world champion DJ and Harvard math grad Sam Zornow, aka DJ Shiftee, who was teaching at Dubspot, a DJ school and production studio in New York.

Mastering turntables is a skill that takes hours of practice to learn and can be a lifelong pursuit, Zornow said.

“It takes two years just to get bad,” he said. “And I mean ‘bad’ meaning bad.”

Still, Zornow was up to the challenge of working with Wilde. At first he didn’t know what to expect, but he said Wilde’s success has surprised him.

“On paper it should be impossible. You’re dealing with manipulating sound. Then combine that with a discipline that’s hard in general, it’s a really impressive task he’s taken on,” Zornow said. “From the beginning he believed in himself and continues to believe in himself.”

Computer giant Hewlett-Packard noticed Wilde’s skills and put him in a commercial this fall for its new touch-enabled PC, thrusting him onto the world stage. (watch it here on YouTube)

“It’s a true story of inspiration,” said HP marketing executive Danielle Jones. “His is a profound story of someone being able to do the things that matter to them and the things that they love through technology.”

Unable to hear lyrics or complete compositions, Wilde relies on technology to see the music by using his laptop and DJ software that helps him differentiate between vocals, bass and kicks.

I grew up in a way that I don’t want any sympathy.
Robbie Wilde

He also feels the vibration whether physically from a club’s speakers or through a SubPac, which resembles a seat cushion and allows him to feel the music by directly transferring low frequencies to the body.

Clubgoers and promoters dubbed him “That Deaf DJ” after he first came onto the scene in New Jersey — a moniker even he uses. But Wilde said he wants to be more than just “a deaf kid trying to DJ.”

“I want you to see me as a great DJ who happens to be deaf,” he said.

Besides, he said, some things are better left unheard.

“There’s a lot of sounds out in the world you don’t want to hear. I like it muffled,” he said. “I like who I am; I’m proud of who I am.”

Wilde has gone from working small clubs to rocking this year’s Consumer Electronics Show and Sundance Film Festival.

When he’s not behind the turntables, Wilde is in the studio producing music.

Often questioned about the severity of his deafness, Wilde used to carry around a doctor’s note and would show the back of his driver’s license indicating his hearing impairment.

When people question his abilities, he said he has only one answer: “I didn’t hear you.”


New Social Media

Earphones Can Be a Danger To Your Health

As the parent of two teenaged children, I could never imagine allowing them to do something as potentially dangerous as playing with a loaded gun while doing their homework, sitting in the backseat of my car or while playing in the backyard. Nor could I imagine handing them illegal drugs and sending them off to play with their friends. Could you do this? Then why are so many parents allowing their children to wear earbuds or headphones and listen to their music so loud that they incur irreversible noise-induced haring loss? Maybe they don’t understand the effect that noise or earbuds has on their hearing. Noise-induced hearing loss is a rapidly growing effect, seen on children as young as six years old!

To fully understand the repercussion that noise and earbuds have on your hearing, it is vital to first understand how your ears work. Within each of our ears we have, among many parts, an eardrum and a cochlea. Each time a sound is made, sound waves travel throughout the air. Once the sound waves enter your ear they first hit your ear drum. Vibrations are then sent to three small bones within your ear – the hammer, the anvil and, lastly, the stirrup. Once the vibrations have been sent to the stirrup, they are received by the cochlea, a snail-shaped cavity. The cochlea is home to thousands of nerve endings called cilia which receive the vibrations and send the sound messages to your brain. Your brain translates the sound and tells you what you are listening to.

Like me, you probably learned about this process in middle school and forgot all about all of the intricate details. Today, the most important thing you can remember about this process is the fragile state of the cilia, which are tiny hairs that are very sensitive to loud noise. Prolonged exposure to loud sound can actually injure or kill your cilia. Once damaged or killed by loud sound, the cilia are unable to heal or grow back and as a result your hearing is permanently damaged.How Ear Works

Sound is measured in units called decibels. The lowest level of sound is zero decibels, which is complete silence. A whisper is around 30 decibels, a refrigerator hums at 40, typical conversation is held at 60, a chain saw supplies 100 decibels of sound, a personal MP3 player maxes out at 105 and an ambulance siren sends warnings at 120. Once noise reaches 85 decibels of sound for lengthened amount of time has been found to be the cause of gradual hearing loss for many kids and adults. When you choose to listen to sound, unprotected, at 100 decibels for more than 15 minutes, you are permanently damaging and killing cilia and subjecting yourself to noise-induced hearing loss. Don’t forget that most personal stereo systems (MP3 players) max out at 105 decibels and when people listen to something for more than one minute at 110 decibels, they are in danger of permanent hearing loss.

Think how much you can do to your hearing if you stick in your earbuds and blast your music at 90 decibels during your commute to school or work. The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion reports that nearly 12.5 percent of children ages 6-19 within the United States have damaged hearing or permanent hearing loss because of the amount of time they spend listening to loud music. That’s close to 5.2 million children and teens with permanently damaged hearing. They have also found that 17 percent of adults ages 20-69 within the United States have suffered the same effects due to the volume of music. That’s roughly 26 million adults.

We are fortunate to have so many modern conveniences, including earnbuds, at our disposal. Earbuds aer a convenient way to listen to music for several reasons: they block out more noise than most headphones, they come with several rubber eartips to provide a custom fit for your ear, they aren’t as big or bulky as headphones and you don’t have to worry about someone knocking them off the top of your head. Earbuds truly are more convenient in many ways; however it is important to pay attention to the facts and dangers of using earbuds improperly. If you like engaging in conversation or listening to headphones, a car stereo, or music player at your home, watch the volume and protect yourself from noise-induced hearing loss.

New Social Media

Rock concerts may put teens’ hearing at risk

Exposure to loud music at a rock concert often results in temporary hearing loss for teenagers, researchers say.

A small study by the House Research Institute revealed that 72% of teens reported reduced hearing after attending a three-hour show. This type of hearing loss typically disappears within 48 hours, but if it occurs repeatedly, permanent hearing loss can develop, the study authors noted.

“Teenagers need to understand a single exposure to loud noise either from a concert or personal listening device can lead to hearing loss,” study lead author Dr. M. Jennifer Derebery, physician at the House Clinic, said in an institute news release. “With multiple exposures to noise over 85 decibels, the tiny hair cells may stop functioning and the hearing loss may be permanent .”

How the study was done

For the study, researchers offered 29 teenagers free tickets to a rock concert. All of the seats were about 15 to 18 rows away from the stage.

Beforehand, the kids were told how they could protect their hearing and were encouraged to use foam ear plugs during the performance. Only three chose to use them, the study authors noted.

Using a calibrated sound pressure metre, researchers seated with the teens found that sound decibel levels (dBA) ranged from 82 to 110 dBA and averaged 98.5 dBA. The average was greater than 100 dBA for 10 of the 26 songs played.

Derebery and colleagues noted that these levels exceeded the workplace safety standards of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which sets time limits on exposure to sound levels of 85 dB or greater.

Following the concert, most of the teens had a significant reduction in the Distortion Product Otoacoustic Emissions test, which checks the function of cells in the inner ear. These cells are critical to normal hearing and most vulnerable to damage from prolonged noise exposure.

Specifically, 53.6% of the teens said they were not hearing as well as they did before the concert, and 25% reported tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears.

Although these cells usually recover, the researchers cautioned that repeated exposure to loud noise could permanently damage hearing.

More research needed

The authors said more research is needed to determine if teenage ears are more sensitive than adult ears. Guidelines for noise exposure among teenagers may need to be updated, they added.

“It also means we definitely need to be doing more to ensure the sound levels at concerts are not so loud as to cause hearing loss and neurological damage in teenagers, as well as adults,” said Derebery. “Only three of our 29 teens chose to use ear protection, even when it was given to them and they were encouraged to do so. We have to assume this is typical behaviour for most teen listeners, so we have the responsibility to get the sound levels down to safer levels.”

The researchers pointed out that teenagers should take advantage of sound meter “apps” available for smartphones, which provide an estimate of surrounding noise level, and use ear protection when appropriate.

The study, recently presented at an American Otologic Society meeting, will be published in a future issue of Otology & Neurotology.



Etymotic Launches MusicPRO Electronic Musicians Earplugs

Etymotic Research has released Music•PRO earplugs, designed for musicians who desire hearing protection during performances while avoiding the inconvenience of removing earplugs to hear communications at safe sound levels.

The Music•PRO 9-15 combines the performance of two of the company’s high-fidelity passive earplugs, the ER-9 and ER-15 musicians earplugs. The resulting Music•PRO line is a high-fidelity adaptive electronic earplug that allows natural hearing when sound levels are safe and automatic protection from both loud, sustained music and loud percussive sounds. The new earplugs also can allow the soft sounds of music and speech to be enhanced.

The Music•PRO circuitry automatically changes output levels as sound input levels change. Consequently, hearing appears natural, as if nothing is in the ears, until sound exceeds safe levels. As sound levels increase, the earplugs gradually provide 9 or 15 decibel sound reduction. When sound returns to safe levels, natural hearing mode is automatically restored.

Etymotic says that the earplugs are designed with directors and musicians in mind, although front-of-house personnel, support staff, and security personnel near the stage may also benefit from Music•PRO’s ability to switch between levels of protection and communication.

Dr Gail Gudmundsen, managing director, audiology division, at Etymotic, stated in the press release, “With Music•PRO earplugs, we’re pleased to offer the first electronic earplugs for music industry professionals that allow them to hear their music naturally but be protected with no loss of clarity when sound exceeds safe levels. No other devices can do that.”

The Music•PRO can be purchased online by visiting Etymotic’s website or other online retailers such as Amazon.