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Does DJing Damage Your Hearing? How To Protect It

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I have been a professional DJ for 20 years, but it wasn’t until I noticed a temporary high-pitched ringing in my ears about 5 years into my career that I started to take proper precautions for my hearing.

Does DJing damage your hearing?

Unless safety measures are taken, DJing will have a negative effect on your hearing.

When you consider that the average volume in a nightclub is similar to that of a car horn, it is understandable that exposing your ears to amplified volume levels for an extended period of time will damage your hearing.

Having said that, if you take care of your ears, then there is no need for your hearing to suffer.

How can I protect my hearing?

There are many ways that you can protect your ears, and not all of these solutions are exclusive for DJs.

Some of them are applicable to people working in nightclubs as well as the billions of clubbers around the world that go to events and festivals on a regular basis.

Be aware of how many gigs you are working/attending (Applicable to everyone)

This one is obvious when you think of it, but not everyone thinks of it.

Whether you are a DJ, a nightclub employee or a regular clubber, if you work or go out once a week, you will expose your ears to excessive volume 52 times per year. If you work or go out twice a week, it becomes 104 times per year, three times per week becomes 156 times per year and so on.

I am not suggesting that you place a limit on the number of times that you work or go out, as everyone needs to earn money and/or enjoy themselves, I am simply reminding you to be aware that the more often you work or go out, the less time you are giving your ears to recover.

I have worked in excess of 275 gigs every year for the last 8 years and, touch wood, my hearing is still fine. That isn’t to say that I haven’t already done some damage that will catch up with me in later life, though.

While I cannot be sure, I believe that my hearing has remained largely unaffected due to the fact that I have used in-ear monitors for the majority of the last decade.

Use in-ear monitors (Applicable to DJs)

If you aren’t familiar with in-ear monitors, they are similar to the earbud-style headphones that come in the box when you buy a new mobile phone.

As the name suggests, in-ear monitors allow you to monitor your mix in your ears. This means that there is no need for loud monitor speakers and there is no need to take them off.

The author of this article, Mister Barclay, using in-ear monitors at a festival in Dubai

Using in-ear monitors has almost eliminated the exposure my ears have had to the unforgiving volume of nightclub and festival sound systems.

Before I switched to in-ear monitors, I used conventional over-the-ear headphones for a long time and, when you switch to in-ear monitors, it does take some getting used to.

If, like a lot of DJs I know, you cannot get used to in-ear monitors, then I strongly recommend you use a pair of high-quality headphones.

Use high quality headphones (Applicable to DJs)

While they may seem expensive, spending a decent amount of money on headphones can really make a difference.

There is a reason why a good pair of DJ headphones will set you back $200+, yet a standard pair of headphones for home use can be purchased for as little as $20.

Noise cancellation from the earcups, coupled with more accurate frequency response rates means that you get a better quality of sound. This enables you to achieve the same results at a lower volume, which will prevent your ears from taking a beating each and every time you mix.

Wear earplugs (Applicable to everyone)

The effectiveness of earplugs is estimated by their Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). The higher the NRR, the more protection they will provide.

The highest Noise Reduction Rating for earplugs is 33, and there is a little mathematical equation that you can calculate to determine how many decibels they will actually block:

“NRR> Subtract 7 > Divide by 2”

Noise Reduction Rating Calculation

If the NRR is 33, after subtracting 7 you have 26. Once you divide that figure by 2, you are left with the number of decibels they will actually block. In this instance, the decibel prevention would be 13.

The average decibel output in a nightclub can be anywhere between 90db to 130db. With that taken into account, even a simple pair of earplugs could reduce your exposure by at least 10%.

If you are a DJ and you wear earplugs as well as keeping your headphones covering your ears, the amount of protection will increase even more.

Related Questions

Will alcohol consumption damage my hearing?

When you consume alcohol, it very quickly enters your bloodstream. Your brain then starts to release dopamine, which is the chemical that your brain creates to make you feel good.

You will become more outgoing and relaxed after a couple of drinks, but a few drinks later your brain will blur the difference between good decisions and terrible decisions.

One of those terrible decisions will be your brain telling you that “the music isn’t that loud”.

Once alcohol starts to take hold, the DJs among us will think it is a good idea to increase the volume of the monitor speakers a little bit more, while the clubbers among us will think it is a good idea to move that little bit closer to the enormous speaker stack at the front of the club.

Both of these “good ideas” could lead to a Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS), which is the temporary loss of hearing that some people experience after being exposed to excessive volume levels.

While a “temporary” threshold shift might not seem that bad, it can easily become a Permanent Threshold Shift (PTS), so try to keep your wits about you.

In addition to the above, some studies have shown that consumption of alcohol over an extended period of time (we are talking weeks/months/years), can also damage hearing, even without factoring in the damage caused by the loud volumes of music in nightclubs.

Will drug consumption damage my hearing?

When you consume drugs, your ability to stop or say no is reduced. Among other things, this could be the temptation to attend an after-hours event once the regular clubs have closed.

If you are a DJ or a clubber, you will have already been exposed to above-average volume levels for several hours, so to then extend the duration of that exposure even more is never going to be a good idea.

Furthermore, simply ingesting some recreational drugs has been linked to temporary hearing loss.

Will silent discos ever become the standard?

Although silent discos have become extremely popular in the last decade, the general concensus is that they are more of a novelty.

There is a part of the inner ear called the sacculus. When it is stimulated by loud music, it releases endorphins. As they are known to reduce pain and increase pleasure, the release of endorphins will give you a sense of well-being by listening to loud music that you won’t get by listening to quiet music.

Better DJing Top Tip

If you are already a working DJ, contemplating a career as a DJ or simply love going out to nightclubs and festivals, I urge you to take care of your ears before it is too late.

If you have seen the movie “It’s All Gone Pete Tong”, then you will be familiar with the plight of Frankie Wilde, who suffers from tinnitus after years of playing in nightclubs.

Tinnitus is a high-pitched ringing or buzzing in the ears which, to this day, has no cure.

Hearing Damage Conclusion

Whether you are a DJ, a member of nightclub staff or a regular clubber, the nightclub and festival scene provides many opportunities to damage your hearing permanently.

However, if you consider some (or all) of the solutions mentioned in this article and also consult with an appropriate medical professional, then there is no reason why you cannot protect your ears and your long-term hearing and live your life without any discomfort or hearing loss.

I hope that this article has helped you in some way. If you have any further questions or any suggestions about protecting your hearing, please feel free to leave a comment.

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