Local musician and blogger warns of music-related hearing loss

I hate to get all serious on you in my first proper guest post, but local musician and blogger Christopher Woods has been on the telly to warn musicians and music fans to protect their hearing.

From the BBC article:

Christopher Woods, a musician from Birmingham who is training to be a sound engineer, has already, at the age of just 21, experienced damage to his hearing caused by playing and listening to loud music.

He said: “The damage is permanent. I have been told my hearing will never improve.

“Many people who have been working in the industry for a long time have a sustained level of hearing loss, and it is too late.”

Personally, I do believe that my hearing has been damaged from years of gig-going and clubbing. Does anyone think that promoters/bands should be making earplugs available at their gigs?


  1. Hi Julia! I am going to show my age and admit that I suffered from three days of ringing in the ears following a Who concert in Southampton in the 1960s. I fully understand from that brief interlude in my life why Pete Townshend is nearly deaf. The next loudest experience was Elton John in Houston in the mid-1980s – funny that, because I would never have thought his act would have been so loud.

    As to the supply of earplugs – attendees at gigs should take their own, not rely on the band or promoter to think for them. (Showing my age again!)

  2. I agree with FP – I don’t want to sound all Tory, but surely this is something people can manage for themselves? Or should be, at least.

    I don’t think my hearing has suffered particularly from the many, many, many noisy gigs I’ve been to over time, but then again I was as deaf as a post to begin with.

    I will offer, however, the fairly unpleasant anecdote of having left a very loud and very feedback-y metal gig at The Foundry (back when that existed) and seeing someone who had clearly been glassed lying on the pavement outside the Alexandra. I attempted to ring 999… and couldn’t actually hear the operator at all over my ringing ears.

    Fortunately a few more people were beginning to accumulate and one of them was able to, but it was a frightening moment.

    I wouldn’t draw anything into it, though.

  3. My hearing was damaged a lot more from the brief period I worked in a factory, but yes the odd gig gives you a ringing-in-the-ears.

    I think it’s a perfect branding opportunity, get yer logos and urls printed on some.

  4. When I was working at Gigbeth they gave out free earplugs. Lots of people took them, but I’m not many of those people actually used them.

    I think it should be a case of everything in moderation. When I was working at Reading we had to have earplugs due to standing a few feet from the speakers for eight hours a day! The punters were probably only there for up to three hours at a time.

    Also, and I know it isn’t true of all dj’s/venues but sometimes they’re guilty of turning the music up too loud (thank you Rihanna!) to create some kind of atmosphere…

    I am going to show my age and admit that I sometimes just enjoy a pub and a sit down with some jolly good people for a jolly good laugh!

  5. Julia Gilbert

    I think it would be useful if venues/promoters could offer earplugs, not in a ‘nanny state’ type way but just out of convenience. I think people would be willing to pay a small price for disposible ones, say £1 or £2? I am aware of the irony of venues selling earplugs when they could just turn the sound down?!

    I would not have had a clue where to buy earplugs from myself, although Christopher has a few recommendations in his post and I am seriously thinking of getting a pair of the Etymotic Elacin ER20s that he recommends.

    The RNID’s Don’t Lose the Music campaign site also has recommendations of where to buy earplugs. Does anyone know of anywhere in Brum to buy the ‘filtering’ earplugs?

    I don’t remember ever being offered earplugs at any gig or clubnight I’ve been to (inc dnb nights but it has been a good while since I last went to those!), whether free or otherwise.

  6. When I was slightly more involved in the music industry than I am now I used to quite often wear earplugs at gigs…and many venues have funky earplug dispensers (kind of like those machines that give you a handfull of sweets) backstage – though I’ll admit I can’t remember seeing them at any Birmingham venues…

  7. From the MFG! blog….
    This is quite specific to residents in Brum, but, still quite useful anyway.

    The most cost effective way to get your ears safe is to order your ear plugs online, get some discrete ones so your friends don’t rip the piss and for comfort purposes too. Then pop along to a hearing aid centre and they can do you ear impression for around £20-30 squid. There is a place off New St (the one before temple st)that do them and in Kings Heath (Sietech) too.

    I contacted Specsavers first but they refused to do just the ear impressions, they insist on selling you the ear plugs as well, which costs a total sum of £160 I think.

    Hope that helps :)

    I have been to some valve night at the custard factory and clearly remember seeing ear plugs given out and was impressed.

    I felt really old though….

  8. Julia- re filtering ear plugs- try local records shop like tempest or jibbering….

    I was too embarrassed to wear mine cos they stuck out so much so bought more discrete/expensive ones: vanity!

  9. Blimey, this really generated some discussion! Which is excellent, obviously my small contribution to the RNID’s push for better awareness about hearing damage has helped do the trick.

    One small point to make though regarding the article (and I’ve already told the BBC about this) – I’m 22, not 21. The RNID passed my age to the BBC and got it wrong by a year (I guess I should take it as a compliment…) They spelt my name wrong, too!

    As I mentioned in my blog post, I got my current earplugs (the ones Susannah held up in the video segment) from inkino.co.uk – £11 including £3.50 postage for Etymotic ER20 filtering earplugs (also known as Elacin ER20), which I think is a bargain considering some record shops want to charge you £15 before postage. I don’t leave home without them. They were useful at Gigbeth! :)

    Considering these use the same filtering technology as the MUCH more expensive custom-moulded earplugs (just without the custom aspect), I think they’re well worth the investment.

    Thanks also to catnip for the manual trackback, I would’ve missed this completely otherwise :)

  10. Oh well Chris, the BBC usually get my last name wrong as well.

    Anything above 80dB SPL(A) you should start thinking of wearing ear protection, training has to b given to employees. It is the law that you must wear hearing protection in an environment with an LEPd of over 85dB SPL(A).

    April is when music venues have to provide hearing protection for al – mandatory for all staff to wear ear protection and ear plugs to be offered to the general public. NEC Group, Barfly, Carling Academy and more have all been ahead of the legislation and offer ear plugs.

    Your ears should never ring the next day after a gig – it was poorly engineered if they do.

  11. The Tartan Hornplayer

    It’s not just rock & pop gigs which can damage your hearing – I’ve got tinnitus, thanks to a performance of Berlioz’s Requiem in my youth orchestra days. I probably wouldn’t have listened to advice in my late teens/early 20s about hearing loss, but I now regret not knowing more. A few hours of p*ss-taking from your mates vs permanent hearing loss/damage – it’s a now brainer, isn’t it?

  12. “Your ears should never ring the next day after a gig – it was poorly engineered if they do.”

    That must come as massive consolation to the person in question.

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