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Hearing damage

Dave McLaughlin

Sesquipedalian
Subscriber
Messages
305
I've been playing tenor sax for a bit over a year now. In the past few months I've acquired quite noticeable tinnitus. Obviously, the possibility that the sax was causing it crossed my mind, but I didn't think it could be that loud.

This evening, I happened to bring home a Class 1 sound level meter and my daughter Elizabeth helped me out by holding it close to my right ear and reading off the levels. We tried a few notes in the dining room where I usually practise, and which is fairly reverberant, and then in the lounge, which is more acoustically dead. I played a few notes, mezzo forte. The results were alarming:

NoteFrequency (Hz)Dining rm (dB(A))Lounge (dB(A))
G34999.296.4
C23394.687.2
E14795.098.4
C117101.2100.4

And that's not even using my loudest mouthpiece! It's not a rigorous test by any means, with just a handful of measurements made by a seven-year-old, but it's worrying.

The World Health Organization recommends an 85 dB(A) limit for a 40-hour working week, with the aggregate dose over time being assessed on an "equal energy" basis. What that means is that for every 3 dB increase in sound pressure level, the permitted exposure time should be halved. That means that, for a 100 dB(A) sound pressure level, exposure should be limited to 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week!

I'm sure the WHO is erring on the side of caution but even so I must get back into the habit of wearing earplugs while practising!
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Thanks for bringing this up. I haven't measured at the ear, but doing the same thing from the front of the sax, I was getting up to 115dB on both tenor and alto. And I'm sure that isn't unusual.

Scary....
 

Kingsleyhk

Senior Member
Messages
508
The key measure is obviously what the db count is at the ear, and, if I remember my physics correctly (it's been a while) it's an inverse square relationship i.e. if you move away a certain distance the db count declines by the square of that distance. Or something like that! Whether than means that the sound is less at the ear (on the assumption that most of the sound comes from the bell) I'm not sure.

It seems to me that this is controllable in practice sessions but much harder on a gig. I walked off stage the other week (in a jam session, not a paid performance) because my ears were hurting - bl**dy guitar players!
 
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AlanSB

New Member
Messages
10
The biggest culprit in our band is the drummer. He's so loud that everyone else turns up the wick to get to his sound level. That's lead guitar, bass guitar, vocals and rhythm guitar(me!). I took the sax to our last rehearsal and had to run it through the pa! I couldn't hear myself play and neither could anyone else without the pa. I must sort out hearing protection. Any recommendations?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
The key measure is obviously what the db count is at the ear, and, if I remember my physics correctly (it's been a while) it's an inverse square relationship i.e. if you move away a certain distance the db count declines by the square of that distance. Or something like that! Whether than means that the sound is less at the ear (on the assumption that most of the sound comes from the bell) I'm not sure.
Yes it's an inverse square, but remember dB is a log scale. So if you double the distance from the source, you drop by 3dB.

What's also important is that the decrease assumes dissipation. In a room where there are good sound reflections there's relatively little drop off as the sound bounces back instead of dissipating.

And most of the sound comes out of the tone holes - except for the lower notes...
 

Dave McLaughlin

Sesquipedalian
Subscriber
Messages
305
Kev,

Yes it's an inverse square, but remember dB is a log scale. So if you double the distance from the source, you drop by 3dB.
I think you mean 6dB.

What's also important is that the decrease assumes dissipation. In a room where there are good sound reflections there's relatively little drop off as the sound bounces back instead of dissipating.
If you measure close enough to the source, the direct field will dominate. So I suspect your 115 dB is mostly direct field, whereas the reverberant field might contribute significantly to my measurements, especially since the ones in a more reverberant room are (mostly) higher than in a less reverberant room. But I'd want to see a few more measurements before concluding anything definite about that!

And most of the sound comes out of the tone holes - except for the lower notes...
Agreed.
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,355
Hmm, this is worrying, does anyone know of good cheap earplugs that are comfortable to wear for long periods?
 

Wade Cornell

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
2,147
The biggest culprit in our band is the drummer. He's so loud that everyone else turns up the wick to get to his sound level. That's lead guitar, bass guitar, vocals and rhythm guitar(me!). I took the sax to our last rehearsal and had to run it through the pa! I couldn't hear myself play and neither could anyone else without the pa. I must sort out hearing protection. Any recommendations?
Have you tried the obvious and had a group discussion about everyone dropping down the sound level? I've dropped out of several bands due to this problem where the others seemed to confuse music with primal scream therapy. Doesn't matter how good a time you're having, doing permanent damage to your hearing is early death to musical ambitions. Think about it and where your long term priorities might be.

On a completely different tack there is a solution that's better than ear plugs. Plugs distort your tone as the sound comes through your body to your inner ear rather than your ears. If you have a PA and a good set of headphones that block out outside noise (or active noise cancelling), then plug yourself in and turn the volume down to a low level. You just need to be sure that you are loud enough in the mix to hear yourself. If you can control the mix, then balance it the way you want to hear it and let the other dummies turn themselves into deaf zombies.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Supporter
Messages
13,993
Hmm, this is worrying, does anyone know of good cheap earplugs that are comfortable to wear for long periods?
Forget the wax plugs etc you get from chemists, to hear music and still protect your ears you need at least something like this:

http://www.hearingprotection.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=64&Itemid=125

Or if you are serious about it get these:

http://www.hearingprotection.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=150&Itemid=284

Or custom made to fit
 

trimmy

One day i will...
Messages
10,273
^^^^
Just ordered a set on your recomendation, although im not experiencing hearing difficulties as yet, its best to be safe than sorry :)
 

navarro

Senior Member
Messages
863
Hmm, this is worrying, does anyone know of good cheap earplugs that are comfortable to wear for long periods?
Hi best and most effective earplugs are a soft malleable wax made by a French Co. Sorry I can not remember the name but available in Boots UK they work out at about £3. 99 a box and are re-usable. Regds N. Hi just noticed Pete`s post and he is better qualified than me on these matters. REgds. N
 
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