One of the most important and unfortunately very overlooked aspects of being a drummer is the importance of protecting your ears.

I know, the drums sound awesome and you can’t hear the tone as well when you have ear plugs or specialized ear muffs on, but it’s a much better option than blowing out your ear drums.  To give you an example, playing a piano is about 65 decibels (“db”), while playing the drums (and keep in mind this is not near full strength) is usually around100 db.  A hard hitting drummer with loud kit could easily hit 140db.  Research shows that if you are constantly around 90-95 db then you are entering the ear pain zone and that can cause permanent damage and hearing loss.

Regular headphones will NOT protect you.  In fact, the worst thing you can do for yourself is to take a regular pair of headphones that you listen to music with, turn up the volume on them and play drums on top of the track.  Normal headphones like apple ear buds and Beats headphones aren’t designed for isolation and ear protection, so when you turn up the music on your headphones to hear the song while drumming, you are blowing out your eardrums from not only the high volume of the music in your headphones, but also from the full volume of the actual drums.

If you want to play along to songs, getting an isolation headphone is a MUST.  It allows you to keep the music at a safe volume and still be able to hear it, while also bringing down the db’s of the drum set by around 25db, allowing you to be in an 80 db or so environment which is much safer and better for your ears.  Vic Firth makes excellent isolation headphones for around $50.00.  Vater makes some reusable ear buds for around $15.00 that work great.  Trust me, it will be one of the best investments you make.  If you don’t want to play along to a song necessarily, and just need to protect your ears during band practice or a concert, plain old fashioned ear buds are a great choice.  They are very affordable, bring down the db by about 30, and are very discreet and easy to use.  Playing in orchestras or attending a concert can also get into the 150 db range so it’s not a bad idea to have your ear protection with you at all times. Personally, the biggest problem I’ve had with ear protection is that my fellow band mates are not on board with the idea of using ear protection because you won’t hear each other as well.  And it’s true, without a high end in ear monitor situation it makes it harder to hear the other instruments around you with ear buds or ear muffs on.  It takes a lot of practice and getting used to, but don’t let people or other musicians convince you it’s lame to use ear protection.  If you want to play music for your whole life, or if you don’t want to lose your hearing, you have to invest in using tools to keep your ears safe.   

There are lots of other options out there that are making it easier to use ear protection and still hear what you want.  Companies that make in ear headphones can specially mold a set of ear buds to fit your ear perfectly and block out everything you don’t need to hear while keeping in everything you need.  Just because you don’t see other people doing it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either.  Next time you watch a pro drummer look a little more closely at their ears, and I guarantee that you will see them wearing some type of ear piece.  You only have one set of ears so make sure you take good care of them!

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