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Best Earplugs for FOH with Serious Tinnitus?
Old 18th February 2014
  #1
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toneguru's Avatar
Best Earplugs for FOH with Serious Tinnitus?

I have a chance to get my old gig back running FOH/mons for a small venue here in LA.

Problem is, I recently came down with a very serious case of Tinnitus. If I do not get some quality ear plugs, I will not be able to work.

I cannot expose my ears to loud sounds. Not like the level and duration I get at my job.

I am thinking of getting custom plugs. Perhaps two sets at -15 and -25 dB.

Any of you fellow GS soundmen have experience, or the same problem I am encountering? If so what is your solution? What brand of custom plug do you recommend?

I appreciate any and all feedback.

Thank you.
Old 18th February 2014
  #2
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frans's Avatar
Custom moulded earplugs are the way to go.
The two people I know who got Tinnitus are an opera singer and my wife, both rather from stress than from SPL. And you never go to a "normal" medical doctor for that because they haven't got any education of how to deal with that besides some medication for circulation of the blood. Depending on what you have enocountered in your life you might look at homeopathy or other healers. As with everything, there are really good and really inept people and everyone inbetween, so finding a good one is key. The ear needs Magnesia when having to endure high SPL and some Arnica C30 helps as well. Drink enough, as the blood needs to be thin enough to reach the tiny vessles of the inner ear.
Old 18th February 2014
  #3
Gear Maniac
 

I am in the same case (right ear at 50% and tinnitis), and mix daily (but no heavy rock anymore).
I try to stay at 90 dbA, if it gets louder (e.g. stage volume way to high) i use custom molded ear plugs from Variphone MEP 2G | Variphone
with a -15 db filter.
Just keep an eye on the db meter so you do not get any louder to harm the audience.

Btw. tinnitis never go away, learn to live with it. i only notice it when i am pointed to it, like now reading about it.
Important is you give your ears rest between gigs, so no radio or other loud sound at home or in the car.
Old 19th February 2014
  #4
Gear Maniac
 
c.gymer's Avatar
 

How small is small? 200 people? 500 people? In venues that size if you are doing any music that involves a drumset (except maybe jazz) then wearing earplugs and mixing is not going to work very well.

Basically you cannot rely on what you hear with plugs in (no matter how good or expensive they are) when you are balancing the acoustic sound of the instruments with the P.A. On top of everything else I do, I work at a club in town for a friend of mine. 300 cap (or there abouts). The volume produced by bands on stage just balancing their amps to the drum kit is very, VERY loud. With plugs in you block out so much of the cymbals that a "good" mix with plugs in is completely unrepresentative of what your audience will be hearing.

I have the same problem in nearly any venue shy of 800 cap. Avoiding high SPL completely and doing a good job don't go together I'm afraid. You will have to take the plugs out throughout the show to check at the very least.

Finally, as Derrick said, tinnitus doesn't go away. It is (almost) always permanent damage to your hearing. You should see an audiologist and get tested to measure the damage your hearing has suffered. In general, your brain compensates for the damage over time and can filter out the ringing. I have tinnitus in my right ear from a 1000cc motorbike backfiring 24" from my head when I was 18. Permanent hearing damage and tinnitus. 14 years later and I don't even notice it any more and at my last hearing test scored above the average for an 18 year old. This is because I take care of my ears and limit exposure to high SPL. When I'm mixing I only wear plugs in between bands, have a fairly strict policy on noise during sound checks and NEVER allow a drummer to be within hitting distance of his/her drumset when I'm micing up.

Look after your ears my friend. If it is bad then you should reconsider working in live sound. Remember, once your hearing is damaged there is no fixing it.
Old 19th February 2014
  #5
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toneguru's Avatar
Thanks for the insight guys.

I have seen a tinnitus expert. A 4 hour session. And the venue I did most my work at is 200 capacity.

The good news is that my hearing is normal as far as perception, pressure and frequency response.

I have done about 1000 live shows running FOH/mons and also 1000 as a guitarist in a cover band so my ears have been hit pretty hard over the years. I am 90% certain that it is a neurological response due to exposure to high dB levels. That is what I have read and have been told. I also know that as you guys have stated, stress exacerbates the condition.

Anyway, I had thoughts of going deaf on purpose or even worse. Fortunately I got that out of my mind. That was a couple months ago when it was at its worst.

If there is a premium brand of custom molded plugs that you all prefer, that would be helpful.

PS. Believe it or not, when I flushed the toilet in my old apt in SF, it helped reduce the ringing. the tank filled up and the frequencies and the way they modulated did some magical trick. It was as if it were a semi-cure so to speak. I have read that there is no cure yet my old toilet revealed that there are ways to reduce the intensity. Serious as a heart attack. Even more serious than a heart attack... serious at tinnitus!
Old 19th February 2014
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by c.gymer View Post

Basically you cannot rely on what you hear with plugs in (no matter how good or expensive they are) when you are balancing the acoustic sound of the instruments with the P.A. On top of everything else I do, I work at a club in town for a friend of mine. 300 cap (or there abouts). The volume produced by bands on stage just balancing their amps to the drum kit is very, VERY loud. With plugs in you block out so much of the cymbals that a "good" mix with plugs in is completely unrepresentative of what your audience will be hearing.
I normally do the soundcheck without ear plugs and try to keep it as short as possible, then only the first song, the rest is with the ear plugs.

For example, i did a full sized Balkan band (11 musicians on D&B Max 15 wedges) last Saturday and managed to stay at 92 dbA with a stage volume way over 100.
The venue is a 800 seats theater and the sound from stage does not go directly to the audience, so this was an easy one.

And important, i never do monitor mixes on stage anymore !
Old 19th February 2014
  #7
Gear Addict
 
jfpenkala's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by toneguru View Post
I have a chance to get my old gig back running FOH/mons for a small venue here in LA.

Problem is, I recently came down with a very serious case of Tinnitus. If I do not get some quality ear plugs, I will not be able to work.

I cannot expose my ears to loud sounds. Not like the level and duration I get at my job.

I am thinking of getting custom plugs. Perhaps two sets at -15 and -25 dB.

Any of you fellow GS soundmen have experience, or the same problem I am encountering? If so what is your solution? What brand of custom plug do you recommend?

I appreciate any and all feedback.

Thank you.

Having a set of these never hurts:

hearing protection stereo headphones, video drum lessons, drum methods, at GK-Music.com
Old 19th February 2014
  #8
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Wyllys's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jfpenkala View Post
Exactly. I have used these for years and they are among the best investments I've ever made in audio gear.

I work a good bit doing live broadcast audio and mixing live sound to feed video cameras. I need to have a great deal of isolation, both for discernment and hearing protection, isolation meaning I can work "in the cans" at a long-term sound level 20-30dB lower than ambient SPL.

Be aware that attenuation ratings for isolation headphones are frequency-specific. It is very easy to make a claim of "extreme isolation" at high frequencies, but if the cited level of reduction is only at 5K and above, there's still a lot of noise coming through below the measurement frequency.

The GK Ultra-phones are the best I've found and a very, very good investment in protecting your hearing. Nothing is perfect in this area, but the Ultra-phones are the top of the heap for me and my ears.
Old 20th February 2014
  #9
Lives for gear
 

I mix loud shows with etymotic musicians ear plugs. Had pairs made by them and Westone (same plug licensed to them). Most of the time the 15dB filters are enough. If it's a ridiculous show, I use 25s. The 15s definitely sound better, though. And there is a small learning curve, but I have no issues mixing with them.

Not sure where in LA you are, but the House Ear Clinic can do them (and the audiologists there know how to deal with musicians).

-Ben
Old 20th February 2014
  #10
Gear Addict
 
Buss-me's Avatar
 

I mix a small room in LA, 200 capacity, and I've been wearing a pair of -15 plugs for years now(Westone).
I will briefly pull them out when I need to check things, walking out into the room to really see what's up. After that they go right back in.
With loud "rock" bands it occasionally hits between 105-110db at the mix position. Typically I try to keep things around 95db if possible....providing the bands play responsibly for the room.
Old 20th February 2014
  #11
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+1 on the Westones!
Old 22nd February 2014
  #12
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toneguru's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by fifthcircle View Post
I mix loud shows with etymotic musicians ear plugs. Had pairs made by them and Westone (same plug licensed to them). Most of the time the 15dB filters are enough. If it's a ridiculous show, I use 25s. The 15s definitely sound better, though. And there is a small learning curve, but I have no issues mixing with them.

Not sure where in LA you are, but the House Ear Clinic can do them (and the audiologists there know how to deal with musicians).

-Ben
Thanks Benjamin.

You are the second guy to mention Westone to me. A friend says they work well for live sound.

I was just going to pass it on in this thread, but you beat me to the punch.

I will call up House Ear Institute. And yes, I will get -15 and -25s.

PS. I now see it is unanimous for Westone. Thanks all.
Old 22nd February 2014
  #13
Lives for gear
 

Remember that Westone in this case is just a manufacturer. The actual technology is the set of filters that Etymotic makes and snap into the outside of the plug. Westone happens to be a major manufacturer of the earmolds- they do hearing aids, in-ear monitors (which I also really like. I have a set of the ES-5s that I use for mixing monitors and doing location recording in loud environments.)

Good luck with the process. The couple hundred bucks for the mold and the extra 50 or 60 for extra filters are amongst the best money I've ever spent.

-Ben
Old 22nd February 2014
  #14
Lives for gear
 

I'd suggest you look into NAC. It's an amino acid that pilots take, used to be marketed as "The Hearing Pill". It really helps me with exposure to high sound levels. I take it 3 x a day. http://www.amazon.com/Foods-Nac-Acet...1&keywords=NAC

Cutting caffeine, exercising, good sleep are also helpful. Meditation or other relaxation techniques might help as well, since you may be tensing your jaw and making things worse.

I also use "Tinitus Tamer" from time to time. http://www.vavsoft.com/Tinnitus_Tamer.html

Sometimes decongestants can help.

Also, consider getting a booth made with studio monitors inside, or try using high quality noise reduction phones to mix with - checking the house every so often.

Best…H
Old 26th September 2019
  #15
Gear Nut
 

I changed Etymotic ER-25 to ACS Pro 26 now. It's smaller and better.
Old 30th September 2019
  #16
Old thread but...now there is notch therapy. Very time consuming and cumbersome but apparently it's worked for a lot of people.
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