Young Aspiring Musicians and Hearing Loss
- Written by Jae Sinnett
- Category: Featured - Radio
- Published: 16 November 2023
Occasionally, someone will send me a photo or video clip of a little kid banging away on the drums or playing some other loud instrument. While the visuals are cute the first thing I usually see that makes me cringe are unprotected ears. Children banging away at the drum kit without ear protection are at serious risk for hearing issues such as tinnitus and other health issues. Not to mention hearing loss. Exposure to excessive volume can also contribute to immune system disorders and hypertension to name a few more.
The average “acoustic” drum set volume level is at about 90-130 DB’s or decibels. The DB’s can vary depending on the size of the drums, the heads and how hard you hit them. I say acoustic because in this case the drums wouldn’t be amplified. When amplified the volume is considerably louder. In theory, anything louder than 85 DB’s can start to create hearing issues depending how long you are subjected to the noise. The higher the DB range the shorter you should be exposed to that volume. At about 85-90 DB’s you’re okay for about 25-30 minutes. At about 130 DB’s, longer than 30 seconds can start to create hearing loss.
Tinnitus occurs when little hair-like receptors called cilia, in the inner ear, are damaged. Prolonged exposure to high volume levels causes this damage and consequently, hearing loss. With tinnitus comes ear ringing which is incurable. Once the damage is done, it’s permanent. I have had tinnitus in my right ear for decades. Playing in the rock bands in the late 70’s caused my damage but no one during that time was thinking of ear protection. Heck, the louder the better, but that’s why many of the rock stars of that era are practically deaf. There are numerous ear protection devices available today that weren’t back then. Also, proximity to the volume is of paramount importance. Think about the positioning at the drum set. You are literally within a foot or two of the peak volume which would subject you to the peak DB levels. If you were to stand up and walk back six feet while someone else played the kit the DB level for you would drop at least 10 DB.
Young children’s ears are considerably more sensitive than adults. Children’s ears are tremendously susceptible to higher DB levels, or volume. The main reason is anatomical. Kids have both smaller ear canals and thinner skulls which makes them considerably more at risk for hearing loss after being subjected to the loud noise and high DB levels of banging away on the drums.
Parents, if little Johnny insists on wanting the drum kit and you give in and purchase a set, please protect the kid’s ears by getting them to wear headphones. It’s the smart thing to do.