Last time I had my hearing checked, about 10 years ago the doctor said it was "perfect". I think the reason live bands did not do any damage is I HATE the sound of cymbals. I usually bury (or Mute them!) in my mixes when I can. I always stayed a long way away from the drummer, and even put toilet paper in my ear facing the drums. I think there is a big difference between the damage 120dB of noise can do and 120dB of music. I read where most of the hearing loss tests were from industrial noise, and never music. Supposedly the sine wave (or other periodic waves like square and saw) push and pull your ear drum much like a speaker going in and out in a smooth fashion. Hence the damage is a LOT less than Noise that just vibrates very random and the ear doesn't have time to "rebound". If someone can research this and report back to us, it would be greatly appreciated.
I love to monitor loud, but it isn't very good at telling you much except for what your mix sounds like loud! I like to mix it up. I think I already explained this in another post. Remember I talked about the 3" speaker in the Studer 2track. I use Ausberger dual 15's with TAD components tuned by Bob Hodas. I put them medium loud for judging some levels, and mostly lo end. I use old NS10's
at various levels, and also try to listen off axis. My background vocals sometimes seem correct when monitoring in the center, but sound lo when off center, so I turn em up. I NEVER monitor at the same level for more than 20-30 minutes. I think mixing it up shows up the flaws better. Also check out the thread about checking your lo end on little speakers.
There is nothing more satisfying than really blasting a mix when you are done. You don't learn anything, but you feel GOOD hearing it that loud. I keep some lites in the room (hippie type stuff) just for such an occassion.
If I failed to answer all your questions on this subject, please remind me, and I will try again tomorrow.