Hearing Matters Podcast

Musician Earplugs feat. Dr. Douglas L. Beck | Oticon

July 27, 2021 Hearing Matters Season 3 Episode 34
Hearing Matters Podcast
Musician Earplugs feat. Dr. Douglas L. Beck | Oticon
Show Notes Transcript

About the Hearing Matters Podcast
 
The Hearing Matters Podcast discusses hearing technology (more commonly known as hearing aids), best practices, and a growing national epidemic - Hearing Loss. The show is hosted by father and son - Blaise Delfino, M.S., HIS, and Dr. Gregory Delfino, CCC-A. Blaise Delfino and Dr. Gregory Delfino treat patients with hearing loss at Audiology Services, located in Bethlehem, Nazareth, and East Stroudsburg, PA. 

In this episode, Blaise Delfino discusses the importance of hearing protection for those who are in bands and/ or those who got to live concerts with Dr. Douglas Beck, vice president of academic sciences at Oticon.

Dr. Beck explains that he plays several instruments. He was first runner-up for the part of Ringo Starr in the musical Beatlemania on Broadway. He played in a band that made several albums. In the past, most band members had no idea that they were causing hearing loss simply by wearing in-ear monitors.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has set guidelines for hearing loss. It says listening to 90 decibels of sound for eight hours causes hearing loss. It goes up from there. Listening to 95 db for four hours, 100 db for two hours, 110 db for 30 minutes and 115 db for15 minutes cause hearing loss. People who leave a concert with ringing in their ears have caused temporary hearing loss that could become permanent. 

Dr. Beck encourages practicing and playing musicians to wear musician earplugs. While they are expensive, they take out the highest and lowest frequencies, allowing the wearer to converse. They also protect the wearer from hearing loss. Over-the-counter ear plugs are better than nothing, but custom-made earplugs are the best.

In-ear monitors are worn by singers in a band so he/she can hear his/her own voice over the other musicians. Custom in-ear monitors are made to prevent hearing loss from loud noise. The person first gets an audiometric evaluation, a custom mold is made and a measure of the noise level the wearer will experience is taken. Dr. Beck says it’s very important to use in-ear monitors safely so they do the job. Whatever costs are incurred, it is worth saving your hearing. 

Blaise Delfino:

You're tuned into the Hearing Matters Podcast with Dr. Gregory Delfino, and Blaise Delfino of Audiology Services and Fader Plugs, the show that discusses hearing technology, best practices, and a growing national epidemic hearing loss. On this episode, we are going to be discussing musician's and hearing protection with the VP of Academic Sciences at Oticon, Dr. Douglas Back. Doug, before we dive in, you are a musician and you have released countless records. Share with us your music background.

Dr. Douglas L. Beck:

Oh, my music background is like a lot of people who are listening to this I play lots of different instruments, and I've played a lot of them professionally. And I can't read a note. It's Dr. Nina Krauss at Northwestern University. She and I were doing an expert forum recently for Oticon. And we were talking about playing by ear and she corrected that. And she said, you really should be learning by listening. So I like that a lot. And so I use that a lot. So I learned by listening early in my career back in the 70s, one of the most important musical developments was when Beatlemania first was aired as a show as a musical it was at the Winter Garden Theatre in 1978, just off Broadway, and I was one of the runner ups for that show. So that was a ton of fun to work with those guys and to get to play with that band quite a few times. And then careers happened. And I became an audiologist and lots of studying and lots of work there. But I've always maintained my interest in music, the Jeff Keith band, if you look that up online, you can still buy any of our three albums. And we played all over southern Texas for oh, must have been 2010 to 2013. And we had a great run. We actually played for the Susan G. Komen walk for the cure. I think we had 30,000 people now. And you know, the funny thing was, they hired us because we were doing all original Americana music. We had a nice fan base and everything was cool. But when we started playing, twist and shout by The Beatles, you know, 30,000 people started dancing. So that was kind of cool.

Blaise Delfino:

We had Gary Rosenbloom on the show who's the president of Oticon, and he had shared with me he's like, you know, Doug doesn't share this with everyone. But he had an audition because he played the drums. You had some really incredible audition years ago. Can you share with us what that audition was?

Dr. Douglas L. Beck:

That was actually the Beatlemania audition. I was first runner up for the position of Ringo.

Blaise Delfino:

Holy smokes.

Dr. Douglas L. Beck:

Yeah, well, drums was my first instrument. I played that probably in elementary school, I started but then I realized that the cool thing about guitar is you can strap on on your back and go across the world with it right. And you can't do that with your drums. So you know. I mean, I still play drums. I have a drum set, but it's considerably less portable. So I started getting involved with guitar. So now I've been playing drums for about 54 years, and I've been playing guitar for about 50 years.

Blaise Delfino:

Dr. Beck Nowadays, there seems to be an increased awareness amongst the musical community regarding the importance of hearing protection. What do you think sparked this awareness?

Dr. Douglas L. Beck:

This is a huge issue, Blaise. And I'm so

Blaise Delfino:

Thank you for your service. glad that you're bringing this up in this podcast, because lots of musicians just get this wrong. You know, musicians know a lot about music, they know a little bit about sound. Oftentimes, recording engineers have no knowledge as to how a human ear works. And that's not a cut on them. It's not their area of expertise, any more than mire of expertise as being a recording engineer. But what happens is, it's very easy when you're in a rock band, or you're using inner ear monitors, and you're just going about your day and minding your own business,

Dr. Douglas L. Beck:

You're welcome. And you know, I have no you're causing hearing loss. There are known guidelines for this, for instance, OSHA, which is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says 90 decibels of sound over eight hours will cause hearing loss. Now, that's a general rule. And here's how it works. So it's 90 db, after eight hours, 95 db, four hours, 100 db, two hours, 105 db, one hour, 110 db, 30 minutes, 115 db, about 15 minutes. So when you go to a concert, even if you came to the Jeff Keith band, you were listening to about 130 140 Db for two hours. So that's why people leave those concerts and their ears are ringing in their ears feel full, you've definitely caused a temporary threshold shift. Now sometimes what happens is a temporary threshold shift can become a permanent threshold shift. And there's no way of knowing ahead of time. So instead of going through all of that, potentially causing damage that's going to impact your hearing, as well as your listening as well as your brain, it would be smarter to avoid loud sounds. Now, I'm a Texan. And I was in the Air Force, and I'm a musician. hearing loss. Now, I do need a better signal to noise ratio than most people in order to make sense out of sound. But my thresholds are all within the normal range despite 40 or 50 years of performing onstage. And so this is what I encourage audiologist to talk to their patients about who are musicians that if I just sit here and strum a D 28. It's going to be about 90 decibels. So that's an acoustic guitar for people who aren't familiar and they come from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, right where we're sitting right now from the Martin factory. These are among the world's best guitars and Martins are just extraordinary. And when you just play one and you play an open G chord, and you're just strumming it your ears listening to 85 or 90 db, and then you start singing, and now it's louder, and then you have two or three people playing bass or drums or another guitar keyboards and you amplify all of that, well, you're very quickly in the danger zone. What I recommend is that performing and practicing musicians should always wear musician's earplugs. Now, this irritates some people, because they're expensive. But you know what, when you're using a custom made hearing protection, what it does is it enables you to converse, because it only takes out the highest highs and the lowest lows, so it reduces them substantially, we can reduce those by more than 15 or 20 db. When we do that, we allow you to have more sound exposure without causing damage. And you can still Converse to your colleagues and peers onstage while you're playing. If you don't do that you're risking damaging your ears damaging your hearing, damaging your brain. And once that starts, it's really hard to get a grip on it and to reverse it. So I think that the easiest thing you could do as a musician is invest a couple 100 bucks get a set of musicians earplugs, there's a few different people who make a minor that your office handles that sort of thing. And you know, these can easily run two or $300. But the thing is, they are custom made, we take a cast of your ear, we look at your hearing loss first, or we do a complete hearing assessment first to make sure everything's okay. And then we take a custom impression of your ear, we send that to the factory, they custom fit filters into there, so that they can do the job. If you don't have that and you go into a concert tonight, you can go to one of the pharmacies around town, buy those squishy little yellow earplugs, stick them in your ears better than nothing, but not very good because most people don't use them properly to really use them properly. You actually need somebody to show you because you have to roll it in your fingers. And you have to insert a deep interior without damaging your ear canal. And it's not fun or pleasant to install these things correctly. So I'd recommend buy a set for 99 cents or two bucks, whatever it is, and then make an appointment. See Dr Delfino, see Blaise, learn how to install these correctly in your ears. Because the vast majority of people that I see using them, including the guys out on the tarmac, at every airport in America, they're not using it properly, they're doing almost nothing for them. And this is a big deal, because if you use these 99 cent plugs properly, at least you're getting some protection. But it's rare to see somebody insert them correctly.

Blaise Delfino:

Dr. Beck, this leads me to really our next question. Oftentimes, when you go to a concert, and really back in the day, you saw a lot of the wedge monitors right into your monitors weren't such a big thing. They were expensive, and they still are expensive. They're expensive systems. But we always say that the cost of untreated hearing loss is greater than the price of the in ear monitors, and sounds cliche, but it's true. Why should musicians invest in in ear monitors? And should they wear them during rehearsal? Should they wear earplugs? Why are in ear monitors so important?

Dr. Douglas L. Beck:

So this is a huge question. People who aren't familiar in ear monitors are those custom made earpieces that you'll see somebody like Mick Jagger have in his ear while he's singing? So we have a colleague in common Michael Sam Tucci, who's an audiologist up in Chicago. And Michael kind of was the lead guy in inventing sense of phonics, which are probably the premier in ear monitors that are available commercially. And they're not cheap. And they shouldn't be cheap, because Michael insists, at least last time I spoke to him that you're going to have a complete audiometric evaluation, that's step one, we need to know what's our starting point number two, he's going to take a custom impression, much like we would for musicians, ear plugs, or for custom made hearing aids. Number three, he's going to measure the sound that your ears are perceiving while using a nooner monitor to make sure it doesn't get too loud. And this is the thing that garage bands get wrong all across the country. They all buy in air monitors over the counter, and they'll buy the less expensive ones, which we all understand. But the problem is that if you're the vocalist, you're going to set that in ear monitor to where you can hear yourself singing really, really louder than the rest of the band, because you want to make sure you're hitting the notes. And when I sing backup, or lead vocal, I really need to hear myself really, really loud in order to sing well. And so that's what they're doing. But they have no idea what the SPL or the sound pressure level is. And quite often and this is a warning that Michael sent Tucci and I wrote up years ago, people will be listening to sound at 130 135 db. And if you go back to that scale, OSHA says 90 Db for eight hours will cause hearing loss, we start talking about 115 120 125 that's causing hearing loss in a matter of minutes or seconds. And so in ear monitors, if they're fit professionally, much like a hearing aid, if we're measuring the sound pressure getting to the eardrum, then they can be very useful and safe. My fear is that the vast majority of people using in ear monitors are listening way too loud to their instrument. And you know, generally I'll play either rhythm guitar lead guitar, I'll play piano and most bands. And so what I would do as a musician on stage is I would have the sound injure crank it up so I can hear what I'm doing. But if you were to measure that sound, it could easily be very dangerous and you session has no way of knowing. You can't say, Oh, yeah, that's about 125 db. Yeah, that's there's no reference, you can't do that you absolutely cannot do that. And so it's got to be measured. So I'm good within your monitors if they're professionally dispensed. Again, for the folks in the audience, we can measure exactly how much sound is at the eardrum. It's called a real ear measure. And there's all sorts of ways of doing that within your monitors to make sure musicians are using it safely. Because if they're not using it safely, they're causing hearing loss. And that's going to cause a much, much greater problem later. So in ear monitors, hearing protection devices, hearing aids, this is the beautiful thing about having trained, licensed professionals involved, is there assuring your safety because they know what they're talking about. They're not just going to set it willy nilly to where it sounds pretty good. And I've seen this a million times. I mean, I am still a musician. I go to a lot of concerts and I see guys on stage within ear monitors. And you know, darn well and most of them are just cranking it up to where it sounds good. And that's cool, because I'm an audiologist and we call that job security.

Blaise Delfino:

You're tuned into the Hearing Matters Podcast with Dr. Gregory Delfino, and Blaise Delfino of Audiology Services and Fader Plugs. We welcome to Dr. Douglas Beck VP of Academic Sciences at Oticon back to the show where we discussed musicians and hearing protection. Join Dr. Beck and team haring matters next week, where we'll be talking about the importance of speech and noise testing. Until next time, hear lifes story.