Keeping your hearing and ears healthy is important if you are serious about recording good music in your home studio! How do we keep our hearing and ears healthy?
The first thing that comes to everyones mind is volume. Loud volume we all pretty well know now is one of the main ways you can destroy your hearing. It’s true too, volume (sound levels or db) is something you need to understand when working with audio.
Your ears hear differently depending on the SPL (sound pressure levels = volume) you listen at. This is measured in db or decibels. Listening to something at a low level (60 db or so) and your ears are more focused on the mid range. Our ears are tuned to be able to hear and understand speech at low levels. Thats a good thing, we need to be able to communicate after all! Now change that volume to the lower to mid to upper 90 db or higher and you are experiencing more low end. You may notice you don’t hear the high frequencies as well. This is partly because your ears start to protect themselves from the loud SPL.
There is something called the Fletcher Munson curve:
From this we can see that our hearing is most accurate across the entire frequency spectrum at the low 80 db range. So when you are mixing and monitoring it is a good idea to keep your volume in that range.
In order to keep our ears fresh and not worn out it is a good idea to vary our volume levels. Listen at low volumes (60db or less) and you will quickly be able to hear your balances in your mix. Is one instrument much louder than another? Turn it way down and you will hear it quickly. Listen at moderate volume (80-85db) and you will be hearing how all the instruments fit together in the frequency spectrum since this is where your hearing is the most even across the board. Turn it up to the 90+ db range and you will get an idea of the energy. Just don’t leave it there.
So How do we keep our ears healthy
You should get your hearing checked once a year. That will help you know if you are missing certain frequencies so you don’t over compensate when you make eq and mixing choices.
The often overlooked aspect of healthy ears is keeping your ear canal and ear drum healthy. Most of what we have talked about up to this point has been dealing with the inner ear and cochlea. Thats the never center that changes sound into impulses and sends them to the brain. The brain’s interpretation of those sounds, but a clean and healthy ear canal is a large part of the equation. Too much wax can plug the ear canal or rest against the ear drum and you will loose high end frequencies. So here are some simple tips to keeping your ears clean. This is important ESPECIALLY if you use ear plugs regularly or in ear monitors.
First NEVER use a Q-tip to clean out your ears. They will only push the wax further in and you risk damaging your ear drum if you insert them too far. Get some hydrogen peroxide from your local drug store. Put one cap full (warmed to body temperature but be sure it isn’t too hot!) into your ear. Let it sit for 5 min then flush it out some warm (again make sure it isn’t too hot!) water using a bulb syringe. No repeat for the other ear. You can do this every 3-4 weeks and it will keep your ear canal healthy and clean! I use a small eye dropper filled with with hydrogen peroxide. It’s easy to get it into my ear and I can put it in my pocket for a few minutes to warm it up to my body temp.
Cheers and go make some great music today!