What’s the one thing DJ’s can’t live without, yet constantly ignore the importance of?
We are in a profession where hearing loss is the norm. We’re constantly in loud environments, whether it’s a club, car, headphones or the studio. We can’t get away from it. We leave work feeling like we have cotton balls stuffed in our ears or we hear a constant ringing. It’s a huge problem, but it’s rarely talked about and I’d say, rarely thought about as well.
I’ve been a musician my whole life, so my view on the importance of sound and hearing may be different from people who got into the music scene at an older age. Music is and has been at the center of my life since I can remember and I plan on keeping it that way. Because of this, losing my hearing is NOT an option. I doubt anyone thinks any differently.
I’m not saying I haven’t given my ears a good workout throughout my lifetime. I certainly have, and I continue to. It’s part of the job. But I have come to realize that I need to be much smarter about how I listen to music. It’s not like I’m at a club 1 day a week or at a loud concert once a month. I’m in the club 5-6 days a week! If you are too, you need to do something about it!
First and foremost, you need earplugs! And I don’t mean the little yellow foam things you get at walmart. You need professional, fitted earplugs. I got them recently and they are amazing! What you need to do is search google for an audiologist (hearing doctor) in your area. Make an appointment for a hearing test and to get fitted for earplugs.
My hearing test lasted about an hour. The doctor played different sounds at different levels through both of my ears and charted my response to see how much hearing loss I had. I was actually surprised at how little hearing loss I had. Just a dip around 1khz. However, one thing we did find out that I found interesting was that the average volume I find it comfortable to listen to things at was higher than the average person. I guess that’s why I blast talk radio in the car… lol.
After the test the doctor filled my ears with silicon to create a mold of my ear canal. It takes a few minutes for it to harden and during that time you are completely deaf! You can’t hear a sound through your ears. It’s kinda crazy because you can still pick up some sound though your skull, a very weird feeling. Once the silicon hardened the doctor pulled the mold out of my ear. I’ll admit, it felt like my ear was going to pop off when the mold was coming out.
Two weeks later I had my own custom fit earplugs. They fit perfectly in my ears and block out all the sounds I don’t want. The brand I got was Westone. They earplugs are clear and you can’t see them unless you’re looking for them. They come with interchangeable filters so you can change the amount of noise reduction. I got 9dB and 25dB filters, meaning they reduce the sound by that amount, and you can switch between them anytime. I find myself using the 9dB most of the time.
The cool thing about these earplugs is that you can still hear everything clearly! It’s just at a lower volume. You can still hear everyone talking around you. You can still hear the music. It is a bit hard to judge how loud to talk though. I find myself almost whispering when I have them in. I have to consciously speak louder.
Now you’re thinking, you wear earplugs when you DJ? The answer is usually no. I’ll admit, it’s not easy to DJ with earplugs in. You can’t feel the music as well and it’s harder to hear your headphones. You just don’t feel as connected to the music. So I don’t wear them when I play, but I do wear them when I’m walking around the club when another DJ is playing, when I’m watching another DJ in the booth, or if I’m out at another club or concert. I’m basically trying to limit my noise intake to be ONLY when I’m DJing. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.
Another thing I’m thinking about is using my earplugs as in-ear monitors in place of my DJ headphones. The thinking behind that is it would cut out all the outside noise so I wouldn’t have to crank my headphones as much and I would actually have a much clearer sound. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m thinking about it. I know Enferno does something like this.
So what am I doing to help my ears when I do DJ? I’m trying not to turn my monitor up too loud. Just enough to get a good musical presence. I’m also trying to turn the monitors down when I’m not actively mixing. Every little bit of quiet helps.
Of course my actions may not prevent hearing loss in the future. I’m still in the club all the time, but at least I am making some effort to save my most precious commodity. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost my hearing… Well, I know, I’d probably just look at the waveforms…
But in all seriousness. Think about your ears. Imagine what it would be like in 20 years if you had serious hearing loss and couldn’t enjoy listening to your favorite album. Imagine if you couldn’t DJ anymore? It could happen if you don’t take steps to prevent it now! Do yourself a favor. Even if you don’t have health insurance, go spent $3-400 on a hearing check and earplugs. You spend more on a lot less important stuff. It could be the best money you ever spend.