20 Years Sound Reinforcement – Hearing Damage?

OK, so I have only done probably about 10 years equivalent of running sound for bands ranging from Run D.M.C., Little Feat, Blues Traveler, Joan Baez, The Urge, Chuck Berry, Backdoors, Gravity Kills, Jakes Leg, Spin Doctors, Flaming Lips, Reverend Horton Heat to name a few.  I worked for several dozen clubs (Blue Note in Columbia, MO was my favorite,) and ten different sound companies (Logic Systems being the largest) and several festivals of various sizes.   I currently run sound for a local band called StaggerCatt.   I have mixed at different sound pressure levels ranging from 90dB up to 115dB A weighted (LOUD) depending on what the situation needed.   

I have also played on stage in various venues in St.Louis and Columbia as a keyboard, guitar and bass player.  It’s been a fun ride to say the least.

Loud music ruins ears right?    Yes, definitely.  I try to wear hearing protection, but sometimes it isn’t possible.  I had my hearing tested 20 years ago before I started (as part of an interview for a recording studio which I worked for about 6 months; it wasn’t as fun as live sound where you either get it right or…)  and for the most part, it hasn’t changed much.

Here are the results.  I have some damage in my right ear above 11.2K, and a dip in my left ear at 2k.  But, even after all these years I am still above average hearing for the majority of frequencies (15dB is normal.)   In higher frequencies, my left year is significantly better than average.  I thought it was interesting and thought I would share.



The y-axis represents dB, and the x-axis is frequency.  0dB is defined as the quietest audible sound for persons with excellent hearing under laboratory conditions. 20 db is the level of sound by rustling leaves.  Note: there are few published guidelines for ‘normal’ hearing above 8kHz.  I found a link to a study done that plotted the normal hearing loss above 8k.  As you can see, most people can’t hear above 12.5K  where my hearing reaches well into 20k. 

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