July 23, 2014

Ear! Ear! -- How to Preserve Your Hearing

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two disc like objects protruding from mans ears
Say Wha?

What’s the most important part of a DJ’s arsenal?

Gear? Sure.

Music programming ability?

You bet.

A killer business pitch?

Uh-huh.

But the most important piece of equipment in a DJ’s arsenal is his ears.

“A normal set of healthy ears will work just fine without headphones or monitors, yet the best headphones or monitors are totally useless without a good set of ears,” says Dr. Andrew Vermiglio, a full-time assistant professor at California State University and a consultant with The House Ear Institute.

“Also, equipment can always be replaced, while a healthy set of ears are irreplaceable. And hearing aids generally cannot restore normal auditory function.”

Andrew says DJs should be aware of a number of issues related to audio-induced hearing loss.

“Long-term exposure to high level sounds may result in an inability to hear high-frequency sounds,” he says. “Because of this, a DJ may end up using their sound system to compensate for this hearing loss.  Guests with normal hearing may find themselves listening to sound with inflated high-frequency content, which may sound harsh or unbalanced.”

A high-frequency loss, Andrew says, can give the perception that music and speech sounds muffled or muddy.

Since DJs rely on headphones for their jobs, what would Andrew say are the best ways we can mitigate the risk of prolonged listening to loud volumes?

“In order to reduce the risk of a hearing loss due to exposure to high-level sounds, you must reduce your exposure time and the overall sound levels,” he says. “If you need to cue up a track in a loud environment, use in-the-ear monitors or earphones that can reduce the interference of the ambient noise levels. This way you won’t be tempted to play the cued tracks at a high level in order to compete with the ambient sound levels.

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